The Secret Program
28Basson, constrained. However, Basson secretly retained copies of ProjectCoast documents, which helped to perpetuate proliferation concerns.Today, a divide exists between those who believe that South Africadeveloped the “second most sophisticated” CBW program, after the SovietUnion’s, and are concerned about proliferation, and those who believe thatit was “pedestrian.” The former are focused on the proliferation danger,while the latter are focused on the criminality and corruption of the program.Project Coast was not the first CBW program the South Africangovernment had developed. Between 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, SouthAfrican troops fought in the two World Wars and faced the threat of CBW. Although the 1925 Geneva Convention banned the use of chemicaland biological weapons in warfare, Japan and possibly the Soviet Unionemployed such weapons in WW II. As early as the 1930s, widespreadevidence emerged of the efficacy of biological warfare (BW) based onscientific work conducted in the U.S., United Kingdom, and the SovietUnion.
The South African scientific and military communities kept pacewith the various developments in CBW.The literature on South Africa’s WW II CBW program wasmaintained.
Also, the South African Defense Force (SADF) maintained asmall military program related to CBW research and development. Thegovernment also maintained funding for a modest number of basic research projects located in the Afrikaans universities and other governmentsupported institutions. Much of this research was conducted under theumbrella of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).In the 1940s and 1950s, South Africa’s wartime connections withBritain and the United States continued. South African officers trained inBritain and the United States in chemical and biological warfare strategyand tactics.
Also, in the 1950s, the Eisenhower administration initiatedthe United States “Atoms for Peace” program, which proved to be asignificant factor contributing to South Africa’s later ability to producenuclear weapons.
From 1925 to 1963, South Africa was not willing to forswear CBW incombat situations. In 1963, South Africa belatedly became a party to the1925 Geneva Convention, banning the use of chemical and biologicalweapons in warfare. South African accession to the Geneva Conventionand ratification of the 1975 Convention on the Prohibition of the