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Dr Schalk van Rensburg
Head of Nutritional diseases at SA Medical Research Council - 1981 Source SAB

Dr Schalk van Rensburg a large, thoughtful, soft-spoken man testified to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa in June 1998.

Dr Schalk van Rensburg a veterinary scientist worked for the South African Medical Research Council. In 1983 Dr Wouter Basson visited the Medical Research Council to discuss the problems of biological warfare. On August 1, 1984, Van Rensburg joined Roodeplaat Research Laboratories, where he thought he would be engaged in research on various micro-toxins being used as weapons by Russian and Cuban troops in Angola. At that stage, Van Rensburg believed there was a very real threat of chemical warfare being used against South African security forces. He was told that South Africa faced a serious threat in the form of a new generation of biological weapons being developed by the Russians - based on lethal fungoids - which they believed were being tried out in the Angolan war.

"Within two weeks of joining them, I realized this is not defensive work, this is offensive work," he told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. "The most frequent instruction we obtained from Doctor Basson . . . was to develop something with which you could kill an individual which would make his death resemble a natural death, and that something was not to be detectable in a normal forensic laboratory." When van Rensburg asked about the defensive work that he and his colleagues were supposed to be doing to protect their soldiers from the Russians, he was told that such work was being done elsewhere. He thought about leaving but was told, "If you let the side down, you're dead."

Van Rensburg was ordered by Dr Wouter Basson to develop a vaccine to make blacks infertile. They were told that this project was to help Jonas Savimbi's fighters. The story was that Savimba had many female soldiers and they were falling pregnant and thus they could not be used in the war in Angola. However the project was really intended for population control in South Africa. Van Rensburg told the truth commission, that this was his major project. "We had been told in no uncertain terms, if you let the side down you are dead," van Rensburg said. The big dream at Roodeplaats Research Laboratories was to develop race-specific biochemical weapons, targeting blacks. Schalk van Rensburg became the director of laboratory services.

White South Africans lived during this time with a fear of a "black tidal wave", this drove white scientists to try to develop a variety of means that could ensure the survival of white South Africa. South Africa use to be surrounded by other white countries, like Rhodesia, Angola, Mocambique and South West Africa, with black governments in control of these countries white South Africa was the last bastion. White South Africa was isolated by the rest of the world, with bocyotts and sanctions. White South Africa thus were under siege from external forces and also from a black population which far outnumbered them. They thought they were facing a "Total onslaught". Hoping to develop a "black bomb" which will kill or weaken blacks and not whites. Insurrection being a ever present threat. White South Africa saw itself being threatened by communism, one should remember the Americans and Australians fighting a similar war in Vietnam.

Van Rensburg heard references around Roodeplaat describing plans to poison Nelson Mandela while he was in jail, before he became president, with thallium, which can cause brain damage. A plot was considered in the final years of Mandela's imprisonment and at least for a short time afterward to disable Mandela. The apartheid government did not want Mandela to be a viable political opponent, according to van Rensburg. Van Rensburg said the aim was not to kill Mandela, but to disable him.

A 1986 report from the State Security Council, which co-ordinated the crackdown on anti-apartheid activists, suggested Mandela could be released only when he was in such a poor state of health that he could not continue to lead the ANC.

Schalk van Rensburg became the director of laboratory services. Even though he never supported apartheid, he had no reservations about working for a military laboratory dedicated to the protection of South African troops and development of countermeasures to the dirty tricks being used against them. Dr Schalk van Rensburg stated that he stayed on at Roodeplaats since he was in his late fifties.

When the front companies were privatised in the early 1990s, both Daan Goosen and Van Rensburg had launched personal campaigns to expose the secrets of their work and the corruption they believed were involved. They were the first to break the silence, albeit anonymously, telling their stories to selected journalists, OSEO and, in at least one instance, the Minister of Justice. Meetings with the scientists confirmed the information provided by Lourens and filled in some of the gaps, but the TRC was constrained by its mandate to investigate only human rights violations, and thus was able to do little more than scratch the surface of the programme in its entirety.

Goosen and van Rensburg came to be seen as security risks. Both were ultimately forced out of Project Coast, and became marked men. After Van Rensburg left Roodeplaat there were many incidents that unsettled them, like mail tampering, intimidating surveillance. He and his wife then decided to leave Pretoria for their safety and moved to a small farm in the Free State.

Some of those who came to testify at the TRC did it voluntarily, they did so out of feelings of betrayal. Dr Schalk van Rensburg, who had previously approached the TRC with his story, returned from his Free State farm to Cape Town to tell it again. A former director at Roodeplaat Research Laboratories (RRL), Van Rensburg felt betrayed by both the system and the people with whom he had worked. He had left the front company without being able to capitalise on any of the shares he believed he was entitled to, while his former colleagues, Swanepoel and Dr André Immelman, had walked away millionaires.

8-12 June 1998 Inivestigation into Chemical and Biological Warfare CBW

Dr Wouter Basson

The drugs---ecstasy and mandrax---were manufactured in labs run by Wouter Basson, one of the chieftains of South Africa's chemical and biological weapons program.
Basson was arrested in 1997.

Hearings this month at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission offered vivid insights of what went on at Roodeplaat Research Laboratories; a military installation where Basson oversaw production of infamous materials. Dr. Schalk van Rensburg testified that "the most frequent instruction" from Basson was for development of a compound that would kill
but make the cause of death seemingly natural. "That was the chief aim of the Roodeplaat Research Laboratory."

The laboratory manufactured cholera organisms, anthrax to be deposited on the gummed flaps of envelopes and in cigarettes and chocolate, walking sticks firing fatal darts that would feel like bee stings. Van Rensburg took his riveted audience painstakingly through what he called "the murder lists" of toxins and delivery systems. These included 32 bottles of cholera that, one of the lab's technicians testified, would be most effectively used in the water supply.

There were plans to slip the imprisoned Nelson Mandela covert doses of the heavy metal poison, thallium, designed to make his brain function become "impaired, progressively," as Van Rensburg put it. In one case, lethal toxins went from Roodeplaat to a death squad detailed by the apartheid regime to, kill one of its opponents, the Rev. Frank Chikane. The killers planted lethal che nieak in his clothing, expecting him to travel to Namibia, where they reckoned there would be "very little forensic capability." Instead, Chikane went to the U.S., where doctors identified the toxins and saved his life.

The big dream at Roodeplaat was to develop race-specific biochemical weapons, targeting blacks. Van Rensburg was ordered by Basson to develop a vaccine to make blacks infertile. Van Rensburg told the truth commission that was his major project. There also were plans to distribute infected T-shirts in the black townships to spread disease and infertility.

The Directors of the Company was Daan Goosen, David Spamer, Andre Immelman and Schalk van Rensburg. RLR was a 350 hectare property.

Van Rensburg was denied access to were the experiments on the animals were made

Methods similar to 007 being used againt their enemy:

Injecting enemy with snake venom and then using a dead snake to create a snake bite

Paraoxon was added to lip balm, shampoo and roll-on deodorant.

Whisky spiked with toxic herbicide, cigarettes dipped in anthrax and chocolates poisoned with botulism.

In van Rensburg’s experiments they used baboons in tear-gas experiments, and baboons were also injected with a vaccine in fertillity experiments.

Anthrax to be deposited on the gummed flaps of envelopes and in cigarettes and chocolate, walking sticks firing fatal darts that would feel like bee stings. Van Rensburg took his riveted audience painstakingly through what he called "the murder lists" of toxins and delivery systems. These included 32 bottles of cholera that, one of the lab's technicians testified, would be most effectively used in the water supply.

In 1983, Basson was appointed to command Operation Coast, South Africa's chemical and biological weapons programme

Second link: In 1984 Van Rensburg started the cholera research program, by the end of 1984 Project Coast and RRL had tested BW toxins, and had developed countermeasures to ricin and boutlinum. They had acquired anthrax, plague cholera, E. coli, staph, necrotizing fasciites, ricin, botulinum, gas gangrene, anti-matter bacteria, and the Ebola, Marburg, and Rift Valley viruses. (Question if RRL had the facilities to keep the last three viruses).

Dr Van Rensburg was the chairman of the ethics committee who had to screen animal tests

TRC Van Rensburg Testimony 9 June 1998

10 June Cross examination of van Rensburg

CBD (Chemical and Biological Warfare)

Dr Schalk van Rensburg being interviewed
In June 1998 Dr. Schalk Janse van Rensburg gave testimony before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He was questioned by Jerome Chaskalson and Dr. Fazel Randera.

JEROME CHASKALSON: Why don't we have a look at one of the lists of the Roodeplaat projects? Document TRC-30 may be a useful place to start.

DR. SCHALK JANSE VAN RENSBURG: Document TRC-30 is a list of 163 projects commenced by the laboratory in 1985, 1986, and from 1990 onward. Of the 163 known projects, 66 percent concerned potentially lethal toxins.

CHASKALSON: Can I refer you to another document, TRC-52? On the first page of this list we have three beer bottles with botulinum and three beer bottles with thallium. We've got sugar and salmonella, we've got some whiskey and paraquat, we've got a baboon fetus, we've got cigarettes with B-antheral, we've got five coffee chocolates with B-antheral, some peppermints with aldicarb, peppermint chocolates with cyanide, whiskey with colchicine--and the list seems to go on. Would you consider this list to be a list that could have been used for some form of scientific research, or is it a list of murder weapons?

VAN RENSBURG: Undoubtedly a list of murder weapons, no value for research whatsoever. Dr. Immelman [head of covert projects at RRL] had a storeroom adjacent to his office, a high-security, fireproof, bombproof storeroom where he kept all these products. I never saw what was happening inside that room. I never saw any of these products. I knew he kept them there.

CHASKALSON: Doctor, are you aware that at least two of the substances on this list cause acute heart failure and also have the dubious merit of not being traceable?

VAN RENSBURG: That was a very highly sought-after merit, Mr. Chaskalson.

CHASKALSON: Can you elaborate as to why you say that?

VAN RENSBURG: The most frequent instruction we obtained from Dr. Basson [an overseer of South Africa's chemical-weapons program] and Dr. Swanepoel [a managing director of RRL] was to develop something with which you could kill an individual that would make his death resemble a natural death, and that something was to be not detectable in a normal forensic laboratory. That was the chief aim of the Roodeplaat Research Laboratory's covert side.

CHASKALSON: That's quite a startling statement.

VAN RENSBURG: That's the most frequently repeated need that I heard. Within two weeks of joining them I realized: this is not defensive work; this is offensive work. It was a shock to me. There was an incident in which they claimed to have murdered a young white conscript who was an ANC supporter by simulating a snakebite. It was early in 1985 or the second half of 1984. [Van Rensburg joined the lab in August 1984.] That brought very chill winds very close to home, that something like this could happen. I had to make the decision whether to stay with this lot or walk out. The correct thing would have been to walk out. I did not do so for the following reason: we'd already been told in no uncertain terms that if you let the side down, you're dead.

CHASKALSON: Who told you that?

VAN RENSBURG: Dr. Daan Goosen, as managing director, in a formal directors' meeting. I could see they were not his words; it was obviously an instruction from elsewhere. I know him well enough and I know he's got a gentle nature, but he'd been told, it was my deduction, that we were to understand that clearly.

CHASKALSON: And you took this threat seriously?

VAN RENSBURG: Absolutely. If you let the side down you're dead, right? So what do you do? You try and leave quietly and hope they don't kill you. What happens then if someone else carries on and does much worse than you would do? I rationalized that if I stayed there, I could minimize a lot of their effort, and I'm very proud of what I did. What I did ultimately got me fired, after being confronted by Basson about my liberal views. How they found out, I don't know. It was pretty chilling to know you're suddenly a target.

CHASKALSON: I just want to go back a little bit. You said earlier that you were in charge of the Animal Ethics Committee.

VAN RENSBURG: That's right.

CHASKALSON: Were a large number of animals killed during the period you were at RRL?

VAN RENSBURG: A moderate number were killed. I would not say large. We had a fairly strict code on handling those deaths. Colonel Qaddafi's laboratory was discovered by the Americans because on their satellites they could see the wheelbarrows of dead dogs going to the incinerator. So when ours went to the incinerator they were always in black plastic bags. Animals were killed, yes, but not in large numbers.

CHASKALSON: Did you observe any interaction with people that you believed to be CCB agents [members of the covert division of the Special Forces] at RRL?

VAN RENSBURG: No. There were no CCB agents at RRL. Dr. Immelman used to meet with their agents regularly, though, and provide them with materials.

CHASKALSON: And how do you know that?

VAN RENSBURG: He told me about one incident. I actually tricked him a little bit. When I read in the newspapers about the poisoning of Reverend Frank Chikane [a well-known antiapartheid activist], I said to Dr. Immelman, "What the hell are you doing to Frank Chikane?" He said, "Hell, it's a real mess." He told me exactly what had happened, the mistakes they'd made. He told me that General Verster [a managing director of RRL] was furious that the attempt to kill Chikane had failed, and that he'd ensured it wouldn't fail next time. Dr. Immelman was to train the operatives on how to use the substances. This practice was started after failures like the attempt on Chikane's life. They made a lot of mistakes there, simple, silly things. Instead of spreading the toxin over a fairly large area, to promote absorption, the operative put it on a tiny little spot. He laced five pairs of underpants instead of only one, so Frank Chikane got sick repeatedly, showing it was poisoning.

CHASKALSON: Are you aware of any of the substances that we have discussed being used on specific targets aside from Reverend Chikane?

VAN RENSBURG: There was an incident of a black dissident whose shirt was laced, probably with paraoxon or one of the nerve poisons. This was their standard way to get rid of these fellows. He lent his shirt to his friend and his friend died. This was talked about quite a lot.

Shortly after Nelson Mandela's release, Immelman was very confident that Mandela's brain functioning would be impaired, progressively, for some time. This links up with this newspaper report--I think I have it here--a rather remarkable one titled, "Basson's Human Guinea Pigs' Horror." The reporter apparently had access to doctors who worked with Basson, and they list a lot of remarkable things he meant to do. It's also mentioned that there were plans to contaminate medication used by Mandela with a heavy-metal poison, thallium.

Dr. Basson mentioned, after he had told us a lot about the effects of thallium, that if you give just the right dose, you can cause what appears to be an outbreak of meningitis or encephalitis. And in doing so he mentioned in passing that he had given some thallium, actually he said "we" had given some thallium, to Steve Biko.

It might be disinformation, idle boast. But I don't think so. There was no reason to boast: only a few of us technical people were involved. If it is true it would possibly account for Steve Biko's very irrational, unexpected behavior under questioning. He was a highly intelligent man. He was a fourth-year medical student. I know people who knew him, and it's not the sort of way he would behave, giving normal policemen excuses to bash his head against the wall or whatever they did.

CHASKALSON: Dr. van Rensburg, earlier today you mentioned that in chemical and biological research, you needed to know what could be done so that you could protect against it. In your opinion, was the work that was done at the facility of a protective nature?

VAN RENSBURG: Less than 5 percent of the work done was of a protective nature. The protective nature was, as far as I could see, to handle situations such as, if you accidentally get some of these very toxic substances on your finger, you want a neutralizing agent. Ninety-five percent was offensive, covert work.

Dr. FAZEL RANDERA: Dr. van Rensburg, you left the company in 1991, is that right?

VAN RENSBURG: I was demoted in November 1991, but they kept me there against my will to finish certain vital work until the end of July 1992.

RANDERA: Once the company closed down, can you tell me what actually happened to all these products and experiments that were taking place ?

VAN RENSBURG: There was a furious humming of the shredding machines and stoking of the incinerators. Some of the stuff was dumped in the bathroom.

About the middle of 1991, Dr. F. W. de Klerk had to give his permission for the institute to continue. The military people were adamant that there was no way we could continue without the permission of the state president, so we were all on tenterhooks, worried about our jobs. Eventually he decided that Roodeplaat may Continue provided there was only defensive work done, no offensive work. After that they feared a raid, and most of this stuff was destroyed.

RANDERA: Doctor, over the last two days we have heard from people who were involved in similar companies. The phrase that came up repeatedly was this one of a "need-to-know basis." Now in your case, and in Roodeplaat, that culture did not seem to exist. You knew you'd been singled out by the Broederbond [a secret apartheid-policy group]. Yet you knew about almost everything that was happening. You overheard conversations in which people talked about the use of certain substances. You knew who some of the CCB operatives were. In this particular establishment, it seems like a culture of liberalism prevailed. Did this come with you?

VAN RENSBURG: The culture of liberalism is something I worked on. It tended to be there, in the top-class scientists, because that is the way of scientists: they share ideas, they share knowledge.

I will confess, and I am remorseful for it, that I went along with the system. I had to bluff, to a large extent, that I was one of them. It wasn't very convincing, not for long. But the alternative was either to be quietly blotted out or to be kicked out.

Now when they employ you at this place they take over your pension; they give you a tremendous housing subsidy; they give you a motor car; and they give you a salary that's a little bit more than what you can get elsewhere. Plus you get perks, expense accounts and so on. If I'd been kicked out I would have lost my pension, I would have lost my house, I would have lost my motor car, and I would have had to really start from scratch. That is a confession I make. It was a consideration in my decision to stay and, rather in a small way, try and neutralize the system from within. Outside I would have been totally powerless.

Family Connections

Schalk Willem Janse van Rensburg, (4/6/1896 - 5/8/1989) http://www.nda.agric.za/vetweb/History/Vets%20Past%20VWXYZ.htm

Schalk Willem (senior)

Born on the 4th of June 1896 at Cradock, he was at the time of his death the oldest and longest serving SAVA member, which record he acquired only 4 months before on the death of William Hay MRCVS on 21 April 1989 (The latter was then 96 years old).

After obtaining a BA degree at Stellenbosch he travelled to London where on 20 December 1921 he qualified MRCVS at the Royal Veterinary College (Camden Town). In 1922 he returned to South Africa to served as Government Veterinary Officer (GVO) at various Karoo Towns, then Middelburg (succeeded P.J.J. Fourie), as well as Ermelo and Vryheid (transferred there 6 July 1932). He subsequently transferred to Onderstepoort where he first lectured in Medicine and later served as Head of Department (1947) of Surgery and Gynaecology in succession to J.B. Quinlan. In this capacity he did a great deal of research work on infertility and artificial insemination and became known as the father of A.I. in South Africa. In 1953 he resigned from the Department of Agriculture and undertook research work as Senior Research Officer for Dairy, Wheat and Wool Boards.

After retiring he opened a very fine Veterinary/Agric. Book shop called Libagric. At the age of 85 he wrote an autobiography "From the Horses Mouth: The story of South Africas Veteran Vet". One of his sons, Schalk Junior, also qualified as a Veterinarian (R. Every BVSc 1949 and J.M.M. Brown BVSc 1951). In 1973 he was awarded for the second time the golden medal by the SA Society of Veterinary. He died at Pretoria on 5 August 1989, aged 93 years.

Other sources gives the date of birth for the senior Dr Schalk Willem van Rensburg, as 6 June 1896, he married 16 June 1926 Maria Christina de Wet le Mue. In 1935 he was transferred to Onderstepoort.

There fourth child b4c2d12e8f10g2h4 they called Schalk, he was born 12 July 1934, he married Thelma Verryn and they had four children. It is plausable that this son could be the above mentioned Dr Schalk van Rensburg for the following reasons:

Often the son follows the same career path as the father.
They both have the common name Schalk
The ages seem to agree.

Depot SAB
Type Foto
Ref 16114
Description Dr. Schalk van Rensburg hoof van die afdeling voedingspatologie by die Mediese Navorsingsraad.
Starting 1981
Ending 1981
Remarks Skenker: Buro vir Inligting. Grootte: 17,5 cm. x 24 cm.




Sources not yet consulted:
Marlene Burger, & Chandre Gould, Secrets and Lies: Wouter Basson and South Africa's Chemical and Biological Warfare Programme

Generaal Jan van Loggenberg, Atoom geskiedenis van SA

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