International Freedom Foundation

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The International Freedom Foundation was a propaganda and lobbying front group funded by the Apartheid regime in South Africa. It was set up in 1986 and at one point had offices in South Africa, Washington, London and West Germany.

Thomas Frank gives the following account of the IFF:

Out of the Youth For Freedom conference came an organization called Liberty and Democracy International, which didn’t last long, perhaps because of the neck-snapping contradiction between its dreamy title and its South African reality. Out of that organization, in 1986, came the International Freedom Foundation—the IFF—the strangest scheme hatched to that point by the sons of Reagan for bringing the power of money to bear on politics and the world of ideas.
Not one of the many former IFFers I contacted, either in the United States or in South Africa, would consent to an interview, but we do know the most basic facts about the group. According to the official report of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the duties of the IFF included supporting Jonas Savimbi and fighting trade sanctions against South Africa. The IFF’s head office was in Washington, where Abramoff served as executive director. But the shots were called by the organization’s South African branch, headed by Russel Crystal. There was an office in London and, eventually, one in West Germany. We also know that the IFF was an expensive proposition and that the apartheid government spent millions of dollars propping it up. The group hosted speakers, conferences, and presentations; it published several magazines and a flock of newsletters; its principals constantly traveled the globe, spreading their toxic trinity of “Liberty, Security, Prosperity.”
The Washington branch of the IFF, it seems, was particularly successful at courting politicians. The group’s “advisory board” listed, among others, Senator Jesse Helms and Representatives Phil Crane, “B-1 Bob” Dornan, James Inhofe (a stout family-values supporter), and “Buz” Lukens (an egregious family-values violator). The group also tried their hand at influence-buying. In 1987, the IFF’s Washington office requested $450,000 from South Africa in order to buy a jet plane for the presidential campaign of Jack Kemp, then the idol of the conservative movement. According to internal IFF documents, this bauble would be an investment sufficient to make Abramoff’s gang “the ‘kitchen cabinet’ types of the Kemp administration.” The South Africans turned the proposal down, realizing even then what a long shot Kemp was.
The IFF made no direct attempt to justify apartheid, for the simple reason that racism as a philosophy of government was flatly irredeemable in the West. Instead the IFF aimed to tarnish apartheid’s enemies, “to paint the ANC as a project of the international department of the Soviet Communist Party.” This was merely a large-scale replay of the political entrepreneurship we saw at the USA Foundation, with Jack and the gang yet again hiring themselves out to a wealthy client to perform a hit on a troublesome left-wing group. High points in this campaign included hearings by the House Republican Study Committee in 1987 to blame “the plight of the children of South Africa” on the commie-terrorist ANC; reports playing up the ANC’s commie-derived taste for atrocities against kids; newspaper ads designed to throw cold water on Nelson Mandela during his triumphant visit to America in 1990; and an endless war on Ted Kennedy, a leading proponent of the 1986 sanctions against South Africa.
The real, confessed éminence grise behind the IFF was South Africa’s infamous “superspy” Craig Williamson, a man whose bloody escapades deserve an entire volume in the annals of Cold War espionage. Williamson infiltrated South Africa’s main leftist student group in the Seventies and rose to its leadership; he used the connections thus made to assist in the imprisonment and murder of the movement’s other leaders. A respected South African historian, asked for his opinion of the man, said simply, “Craig Williamson was the scum of the twentieth century. He murdered friends of mine. I spit on the ground he walks on.”
When the IFF’s true identity was exposed in 1995, the Americans questioned by the media denied any knowledge of its ugly provenance. In most cases this was plausible enough; after all, the basic principle of a clandestine operation is secrecy. But Jack Abramoff almost certainly knew. Still, he denied it—“categorically,” he exclaimed—when the truth came out. Plus, he had an explanation for all the bad press: “It’s pay-back time in South Africa.”[1]

Australian emergence

The IFF is first mentioned in the Lexis Nexis database in March 1987

Mr Tambo, whose ANC is banned in South Africa, rejected claims made in Sydney yesterday by the International Freedom Foundation that the ANC was a terrorist organisation. The foundation's Australian executive director, Mr Brendan Davis, said in a statement Mr Tambo was a violent terrorist with the blood of many women and children on his hands.
A crowd protested yesterday outside the Hilton Hotel in Sydney where Mr Tambo held a news conference. Some had tyres around their necks in symbolic protest at the alleged ANC practice of "necklacing" - when petrol-soaked tyres are placed around a victim's neck and ignited.[2]

The Telegraph reported the IFF protest and noted that International Freedom Foundation was a group 'which promotes democracy through non-violence, said it would oppose the ANC until it renounced violence.'[3]

The IFF then published full page newspaper ads denouncing the ANC:

He accused the US of sending people to Australia to organise the tyre-necklace protests against him, and the South African Government of financing newspaper advertisements critical of his mission.
One full-page newspaper advertisement last week carried a photograph of the burning body of a black South African, and said people in sympathy with the ANC were responsible for burning tyre killings of those working with the apartheid regime.[4]

In denying that the South African Government was financing the ads the it was reported that the IFF 'said yesterday that funding came from private donors in the US.'[5] The disavowal of South African connection was a lie.

Indicating the top-down nature of their work the Sydney Morning Herald reported that 'The largest demonstration against Mr Tambo attracted no more than 50 people. "I think to get even 50 people out demonstrating on a week night is a good indication of extensive opposition to the ANC," he said.[6]

The Herald also provided some background on the IFF:

Mr Pandin said more than 100 US business groups had donated over $1 million to the IFF since it began operations less than six months ago. The group funds "projects" around the world, including assistance to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. "We hope to open an office in Australia within a year and will be approaching business people here who we know are predisposed to us and ask for their support," he said. The IFF has offices in Johannesburg, London, Tel Aviv and Washington...
Mr Pandin said the IFF was concerned with political and economic freedom. "We believe in democracy and free enterprise," he said. He refused to identify the US businesses funding the group, but said that to his knowledge, "no US company which has pulled out of South Africa is currently a sponsor of the IFF". He said the IFF did not receive funds from the US Government but had "their moral support for some projects".
Mr Pandin will attend an IFF conference in South Africa next year, but denied any links with the Pretoria regime. He said the IFF was anti-apartheid but objected to the ANC's alleged acts of violence. Instead, the group supported "peaceful negotiations" - not with the ANC but with the popular black leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. He denied that Chief Buthelezi was a Pretoria puppet.[7]

Note, again, the lie that the Pretoria regime was not behind the group.


Jack Abramoff | Brendan Davis 'Australian executive director'[8] | Jeffrey Pandin 'The man who organised the recent demonstrations against Mr Oliver Tambo... is a 25-year-old American who admits to being a "professional activist".'[9] | Duncan Sellars 'chairman' in 1990[10]



  1. Thomas Frank ‘The wrecking crew: How a gang of right-wing con men destroyed Washington and made a killing’, Harpers Magazine, August 2008
  2. 'Apartheid will soon be beaten - Tambo', The Advertiser March 30, 1987 Monday SOURCE: aap
  4. TONY STEPHENS 'MALCOLM AND OLIVER: BROTHERS UNDER THE SKIN' Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) April 6, 1987 Monday Late Edition, SECTION: NEWS AND FEATURES; Pg. 1
  5. TONY STEPHENS 'MALCOLM AND OLIVER: BROTHERS UNDER THE SKIN' Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) April 6, 1987 Monday Late Edition, SECTION: NEWS AND FEATURES; Pg. 1
  6. 'ANTI-ANC MAN WANTS A BRANCH OFFICE HERE' Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) April 11, 1987 Saturday Late Edition SECTION: NEWS AND FEATURES; Pg. 2
  7. 'ANTI-ANC MAN WANTS A BRANCH OFFICE HERE' Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) April 11, 1987 Saturday Late Edition SECTION: NEWS AND FEATURES; Pg. 2
  8. 'Apartheid will soon be beaten - Tambo', The Advertiser March 30, 1987 Monday SOURCE: aap
  9. 'ANTI-ANC MAN WANTS A BRANCH OFFICE HERE' Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) April 11, 1987 Saturday Late Edition SECTION: NEWS AND FEATURES; Pg. 2