Should South Africa, which retains 220kg of WEAPONS GRADE URANIUM-235 left over from the Apartheid Era, withdraw from the failed NPT and Pelindaba Treaties, reconstitute its abandoned NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM and help to transform Africa into a GLOBAL SUPERPOWER like China and India?
Why should South Africa, the first nation in history to have ever voluntarily dismantled its nuclear arsenal, continue to remain nuclear-free when no other country has since followed her path and eliminated their own nuclear weapons? And why should the African Union (AU) continue to abide by the 1996 Pelindaba Treaty (banning nuclear weapons from the continent) when one of its member nations (Libya) was brutally attacked by nuclear powers in 2011 in flagrant violation of the spirit of said treaty?
Furthermore, why are African nations continuing to adhere to the 1968 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) when the current US president openly flouts his own country’s commitments under that same agreement by boldly declaring his intention to expand the US nuclear arsenal in his megalomaniacal quest to ‘Make America Great Again’?
In the absence of convincing answers to these questions the AU should break free of this global system of nuclear apartheid, undertake an Africa-wide ‘Manhattan Project’ and build a nuclear arsenal that will forever secure us against the transgressions from which we have suffered like no other people on Earth.
For those who may smile at the notion that Africans possess the nuclear infrastructure and expertise with which to pursue such an ambitious goal it’s worth their remembering that South Africa’s Pelindaba Nuclear Reactor, which lay at the heart of the former apartheid regime’s military nuclear program (and through which it developed seven nuclear devices), remains fully operational and the country still retains 220kg of the weapons-grade uranium (HEU-235) with which those warheads were armed.
This gives Pretoria, many of whose apartheid-era nuclear weapon scientists still reside in the country (and who, in 1991, saw their entire life’s work go down the drain), the technical capability to build and deploy twelve implosion-design NUCLEAR WEAPONS for the AU’s strategic deterrent arsenal in 2018.
Taken together with Algeria’s Es Salam heavy water reactor, Egypt’s ETRR-1/2, Ghana’s GHARR-1, Libya’s IRT-1, Morocco’s MA-R1 and Nigeria’s NIRR-1 nuclear reactors (along with a new Russian-built Algerian nuclear plant due to become operational in 2022 and new Russian and Chinese nuclear reactors scheduled for construction in Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt), the AU also possesses the requisite nuclear expertise with which to sustain such a deterrent.
The need for a Pan African nuclear deterrent is rendered all the more urgent by the strong likelihood that apartheid South Africa may have issued a false declaration in 1992 that massively understated the stockpile of bomb-grade nuclear material that was produced at her uranium enrichment Valindaba ‘Y-Plant’ between 1978 and 1990 (a discrepancy, according to some, of around 526 kilos of HEU-235) and that rogue elements within the former Afrikaner security establishment may yet retain as many as 30 Nagasaki-level nuclear weapons as an ‘insurance policy’ in the event of an unforeseen ‘contingency’ such as the looming Julius Malema and EFF-led expropriation of white-owned farm land.
In the absence of a legally-binding and penalty-enforcing timetable for the complete elimination of their own nuclear arsenals the declared nuclear powers should be served notice of Africa’s intention to stage a ‘Nuclear Brexit’ by withdrawing from the NPT and Pelindaba Treaties and joining them in the same nuclear weapons club which they have thus far stubbornly failed to disband.
The African people should be under no obligation to abide by the shameful terms of a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NWFZ) treaty banishing nuclear weapons from our continent which, along with the Treaty of Tlatelolco (establishing a NWFZ in Latin America), the Treaty of Bangkok (establishing a NWFZ in South East Asia) and the Treaty of Rarotonga (establishing the same in the Pacific), provide the legal framework for the global system of nuclear apartheid which outlaws the right of nuclear self-defence throughout the Southern Hemisphere while preserving the virtual nuclear weapons hegemony of the North.
Furthermore, the NATO invasion of Libya in 2011 was a criminal violation of the spirit of the Pelindaba Treaty by Western powers who felt emboldened to proceed with such an assault by virtue of the immunity afforded them by their status as nuclear weapon states – an act of aggression which they would have been loath to pursue had the AU possessed the nuclear capability with which to hold their own national capitals at risk. As a consequence of NATO’s aggression, the AU’s member nations were released from their own obligations under its terms and the treaty itself was rendered null and void.
Having since watched US President Donald Trump further defy world opinion by withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, NAFTA and the Iranian Nuclear Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Africans are now left wondering why they should continue to abide by either the NPT or Pelindaba Accords when the AU owes no fidelity to, nor should she be bound by, global covenants for which the rest of the world has displayed nothing but contempt.
And now that Mr Trump is planning to add insult to injury by staging a DPRK-style nuclear missile parade in Washington DC for the sole purpose of cowing mankind with a vulgar display of America’s military might (while Africans continue to endure their own continent’s unceasing degradation and impotence) the time has come for the AU to deliver an unequivocal and resounding nuclear response.
Those who would argue that Africans have more pressing needs (such as affordable healthcare, universal education, internet access, clean water, better housing, etc.) than the pursuit of a nuclear deterrent place upon themselves the burden of explaining how our having any of those things might have prevented the colonisation of the African continent or the trans-Atlantic enslavement of her people. A prosperous society and thriving economy did little to save Libya from NATO’s vicious assault in 2011 – an act of aggression which could only have been deterred by a Pan African nuclear capability.
Nor did the fact that Europe’s Jews were among the wealthiest and most successful people on their continent save them from their genocidal fate when the Nazis seized power, dispossessed them of their worldly belongings and marched them to their deaths by the millions in the labour camps and gas chambers of the Holocaust.
Having learned the bitter lesson that those who seek prosperity while neglecting their own security will end up with neither, the Jewish survivors of ‘the Shoah’ vowed to never again repeat that mistake and armed their new Middle Eastern homeland with nuclear weapons in the 1960s and at a time when Israel was an economically-challenged upstart fighting for her very survival.
And when one considers that the rationale behind Israel’s development of a nuclear deterrent was to secure her against any repetition of the Nazi genocide (in which six million Jews were murdered) who could justifiably argue that the African continent – which lost one hundred million souls to the European slave trade – is any less entitled to a nuclear arsenal every inch as lethal as that of the Jewish state?
China and India, both of whom had once been colonised and plundered by Britain, also built the Bomb during the 1960s and long before they had become the economic powerhouses we know today. They, too, learned that security precedes prosperity and acted on that realisation. Indeed, in all three cases, the development of nuclear weapons by relatively underdeveloped countries like themselves became a deep source of national pride at the surmounting of so formidable a technological challenge and made national heroes of their scientists, mathematicians and engineers. This, in turn, provided their youth with the right kinds of scientific role models whose later participation in their respective economies was to serve as a powerful propellant for their rapid development into the industrial marvels we know today. But a nuclear deterrent came first.
By sad contrast, Africans and her diaspora brethren, having never witnessed any comparable scientific or technological breakthroughs by their own continent, have instead seen their youth reduced to the idolising of sportspersons and entertainers as the role models in whose career paths to follow – and to seek success in those fields in which Black excellence has traditionally been most readily seen and celebrated.
But just imagine how different the story of Black America (and Africa) might have been had the youngsters of that era, rather than lauding the induction of Jackie Robinson into America’s national baseball league or cheering on the pugilistic prowess of Joe Louis, had instead been captivated by the ingenuity of the Black American physicists and mathematicians who participated in the WWII-era Manhattan Project?
That is not a hypothetical question. Several black Americans did, in fact, play key roles in America’s effort to build the atom bombs that won the Second World War. Some of these great, but shamefully ignored, scientists include: Lloyd Albert Quaterman, Ernest J. Wilkins, Sidney Thompson, Clarence Turner, Samuel P. Massie Jr., Robert J. Omohundro, Sherman Carter, Jasper Jeffries, Benjamin Scott, Ralph Gardner, Harold Evans, Clyde Dillard, Edwin R. Russell, George W. Reed, Moddie D. Taylor and the brothers William J. and Lawrence H. Knox.
The inorganic chemist Moddie Taylor was based at the University of Chicago and it was his role and that of his colleagues to demonstrate that a fissionable material could achieve critical mass, thus proving that nuclear fission could be used as an energy source – or a weapon. Another talent, the physicist Lloyd Quaterman, was specifically praised by the US Secretary of War for “work essential to the production of the atomic bomb, thereby contributing to the successful conclusion of WWII.” And yet another gifted physicist and mathematician, Ernest J. Wilkins, was a member of the Enrico Fermi research team and played a central role in helping to solve the riddle of the atom.
In addition, ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’, the two atom bombs that were dropped on Japan by the United States in 1945, were armed with high-grade African uranium from the Shinkolobwe mine in the Congo. Indeed, so central were Black American scientists (and African natural resources) to the completion of the Los Alamos enterprise that the eminent white physicist Arthur Holly Compton remarked that the atom bomb project was unique in bringing together “coloured and white, Christian and Jew” for a common purpose.
The woeful suppression of the crucial part played by Africans and Black Americans in the Manhattan Project denied an entire generation of our youngsters the scientist-heroes in whose paths they might have otherwise trodden and instead condemned them to failure, underachievement, crime and incarceration in the decades that followed. We now owe the present generation of Black nuclear physicists, many of whom lie buried away in obscurity at America’s nuclear weapons laboratories like Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, Oak Ridge and Los Alamos, every opportunity to emulate their WWII forerunners (and make up for several lost decades) by unleashing the full force of their scientific prowess in the development of a Pan African nuclear deterrent.
Anyone thinking of spouting that stale ‘Africa is too unstable to have nuclear weapons’ mantra should know that Africans will take no lessons in the responsible handling of a nuclear capability from the world’s nuclear powers who, between them, have had more nuclear incidents, accidents and downright meltdowns than one could shake a stick at.
From the 1961 Idaho Falls ‘Faded Giant’ to the 1980 Titan II ‘Broken Arrow’ to the 2007 Minot/Barksdale Base ‘Bent Spear’ to reactor failures at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl to the loss of fully-armed nuclear weapons on no less than eleven separate occasions, Africans have stood witness to the genocidal recklessness and cartoonish ineptitude with which the world’s nuclear powers have themselves mishandled the world’s most dangerous weapons and will brook no sermons about our own fitness to develop the same technology nor will we ever entertain the surrender of South Africa’s priceless inventory of highly enriched uranium into such irresponsible hands.
The threat to global security posed by America’s stubborn refusal to deactivate the hair-trigger ‘Launch-On-Warning’ status of her own nuclear arsenal – a suicidal doctrine that condemns humankind to the constant threat of oblivion by means of an accidental nuclear war – dwarfs by a thousand orders of magnitude the highly exaggerated ‘proliferation’ or ‘nuclear terrorism’ risks supposedly arising from the stash of fissile material locked away at Pelindaba.
As the first nuclear weapon state to have unilaterally disposed of her own nuclear arsenal, South Africa now has the moral authority and historic obligation to withdraw from the NPT and Pelindaba Accords, reconstitute her nuclear weapons program and re-join the nuclear club if the existing nuclear powers fail to make good on their own commitments to follow in her footsteps and dismantle their own nuclear arsenals.
And having once mobilised mankind in the battle against racial apartheid, South Africa now stands poised to lead the world in the even greater crusade to abolish nuclear apartheid (and secure global nuclear disarmament) by proceeding to rearm herself with the nuclear weapons she once possessed.
Pretoria’s decision to rebuild her nuclear arsenal would enable South Africa to unify the entire African continent into a single state and thus realise the long sought-after dream of a futuristic, Wakanda-style Pan African utopia. Through an Africa-wide ‘Manhattan Project’ that brings together the nuclear specialists of her global diaspora (under the determined leadership of an ‘African Oppenheimer’) the AU must now embark upon the full nuclear rearmament of the African continent in order to take its rightful place alongside former British colonies-turned-nuclear superpowers like China and India.
The spectre of a renuclearised Africa could also be utilised to leverage the former colonial and slave trading nations of Europe into paying reparations to Africa’s slave descendants in her global diaspora as well as forcing the AU’s admission onto the UN Security Council as its sixth permanent member.
President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ pledge to build an even ‘bigger and better’ nuclear arsenal than his predecessors (in flagrant defiance of America’s NPT undertakings), coupled with his reported disparagement of African nations as ‘sh*tholes’, obliges Africa to now pursue her own corresponding ‘Africa First’ policy that will seek to ‘Make Africa Great Again’ through the revival of Pretoria’s previously dismantled nuclear weapons effort – along with a complimentary intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program to deliver it.
Inspired by India’s Agni-V, China’s DF-41 and the DPRK’s Hwasong-15 missile programs, the African Union – working through South Africa’s National Space Agency and aided by South African patriot Elon Musk’s SpaceX corporation – could rapidly deploy its own nuclear-tipped Falcon Heavy-style ICBM (let’s call it the ‘Assegai-III’ after the feared Zulu javelin) along with a fleet of Liaoning-class African aircraft carriers under the military command of a ‘Pan African NATO’ and that will serve to deter any future depredations by foreign aggressors.
The outgoing apartheid regime’s racially-motivated 1991 decision to dispose of its nuclear arsenal for fear of its inheritance by a successor black majority government was a despicable racist deed which the international community has since conspired to depict as a stellar act of selflessness and is one that must now be reversed through South Africa’s rebirth as a nuclear weapon state – and capped off with the successful conduct of a Vela-style nuclear test to demonstrate the capability by no later than December 2018.
The choice is now clear: the declared nuclear powers must rid themselves of their own arsenals or the day won’t be long in coming when African-descended billionaires the likes of Dangote, Smith, Adenuga, Motsepe, Musk and Alakija, could one day bankroll a Pan African ‘Manhattan Project’.
And in some top secret ‘African Natanz’ buried deep in the continent’s jungle and bunkered deeper still beneath her rich soil, thousands of Zippe centrifuges, digitally synchronised by IBM and Fujitsu supercomputers and each spinning at supersonic speed, could one day churn out hundreds of kilos of highly enriched African uranium which, once extracted and deposited in secure containers, would be transported under African special forces escort and Sukhoi combat air cover to a top secret nuclear weaponisation facility.
And upon arrival at an ‘African Dimona’ quantities of the HEU-235 would be manicured into grapefruit-sized spheres and painstakingly installed, radioactive orb by radioactive orb, into the physics packages of a Pan African arsenal of W88-like miniaturised, tapered thermonuclear warheads – the long dreaded ‘African Bomb’.
Not long thereafter an orbiting US spy satellite on a routine assignment may find itself having detected an unidentified tremor in the Kalahari Desert. For days earlier a team of nuclear engineers, led by an ‘African A.Q. Khan’ and working under cover of darkness, would have carefully lowered a 750Kt fusion device of Teller-Ulam design down the 1km deep shaft of a disused Namibian diamond mine and awaited further instructions.
And in some distant African presidential palace, its ornate entrance flanked by two Sphinx-sized lion mega-statues and defended by a battery of Umkhonto surface-to-air missiles, an iPhone handset would have buzzed to life in the bejewelled hand of an ‘African Ben Gurion’ with the historic news that the ‘item’ was now securely in place and “ready for testing, Your Excellency.”
If this world wishes to avert a ‘Castle Bravo’ or ‘Ivy Mike’ event on African soil her nuclear weapon states would be well advised to keep their long-broken disarmament promises lest mighty Africa make good on her rearmament threats and become the nuclear superpower she has every moral, political and strategic right to be.
Paul T. Bitakaramire
21st February 2018