BURNED

The spy that South Africa forgot

A true story based on the memoirs of Sue Dobson

Producers                    Guy de Beaujeu

Screenplay                  Finola Kane

History

In the 1980s Sue Dobson was a young, middle class, South African white woman, who risked everything to spy for the ANC during the latter days of the brutal Apartheid regime.

 

When she was finally unmasked her father tried to kidnap her back to South Africa where she faced 15 years in jail. It cost Sue her family, her marriage and her country. She has no regrets and lives quietly in the UK.

This is the story she has spent the last 30 years hiding. Now she is finally ready to talk and Fluidity Films has sole access to her completed manuscript.

Synopsis

(spoiler alert)

 

Sue was a bright, independent, unremarkable only child from a dysfunctional English-speaking South African home. She was radicalised by the regime’s vicious response to the 1976 Soweto riots when she was 14.

 

She married Peter a white ANC supporter aged just 18 while at Wits University, was sent with him to Gorbachev’s Soviet Union for military and intelligence training and returned to live a double life as a journalist in right wing, regime-supporting media.


Unbeknown to family and even closest friends, Sue was supplying information about the inner workings of the regime to her ANC handler Ronnie Kasrils. Information even Peter was not allowed to know.


As she rose through the ranks in the 1980s, so the pressure and danger mounted, affecting her marriage and her mental health. While Peter worked in computing, Sue was out in the field, using dead letter drops, invisible ink and clandestine meetings to share her intelligence. 


In 1989 she volunteered to cover the elections for the new Namibia – a UN-sponsored drive to free Namibia from South African control. Sue exposed the terrifying levels of South African anti-democratic misinformation and deadly violence – it appeared the South African regime was using Namibia as a dry run for what it planned in its own back yard once Mandela was released.


Sue was increasingly out on her own by the time she started a ‘honey pot’ affair with the deeply malevolent chief of police in Oshakati, Namibia. More and more the ANC was failing to help Sue in the field, almost not knowing what to do with her intelligence.

 

Undeterred, Sue set about exposing the criminality at the heart of the South African machine, sleeping with one of its prime executioners; a man who enjoyed going on murderous late-night find-and-kill missions on the boarder, eliminating SWAPO operatives ‘for fun’. 


As the stakes rose, Sue told Peter to leave South Africa for the UK. In the middle of the elections Sue was offered the chance to work for South African president FW de Klerk, as part of his PR team. But the regime’s intelligence check finally exposed her connection to known ANC supporters Jeremy & Joan Brickhill (Peter’s sister), who had been blown up by a South African assassination squad in Harare in 1987 (both survived – just).


Her cover was blown. She was thousands of miles from home with the intelligence services on her tail. She hired a car and headed into the bush, hoping to get to Gaborone, Botswana and the safety of the Soviet mission; there was no one else to turn to. In a dusty northern town her first pursuer drove into the back of a scaffold truck in his haste to catch her.


The chase was on and Sue was fleeing for her life. But her father had one more card to play to bring her home. What he failed to realise was that his ‘unremarkable’ daughter was a highly (Soviet) trained spy and nobody’s fool. She may have been burned, but now it was time to put her Moscow training to its ultimate test, to outwit and embarrass a murderous regime and add her voice to the desperate clamour for change.


© Fluidity Films/Sue Dobson 2021  

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