MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE— “It took one-second and boom. I don’t know how I did it, but I broke through the door,” says Mozambican academic Yussuf Adam as he describes the day almost three decades ago when his friend and colleague Ruth First was assassinated.
First was assassinated in 1982 when the ANC was working out of Mozambique and was being aggressively pursued by the South African Apartheid government. A parcel containing C-4 explosive was delivered to the office where she and Adam were working.
Adam, now a faculty member at the Centre for African Studies at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, said First’s committed political activism and her role as a journalist and writer in South Africa meant she was targeted by the South African government. In South Africa at various times she had been banned, arrested and held in solitary confinement. She remained in the sights of the South African government after she moved back to England, and then to Mozambique where she became research director at the Centre for African Studies.
Though many details of Ruth’s death are still unknown, the man responsible for making the bomb has been identified as Craig Williamson. Adam states that Williamson won’t say who gave him the orders but that the government of Mozambique has talked with him several times.
In a meeting with Adam last week, he described First as a larger than life personality. “She would walk into a room and everyone payed attention to her. She would ask you about everything — even your dog. Why would she care about my dog?” Adam said.
First was a mentor to Adam and an adored friend.
Reflecting on the violence of the period, Adam stressed the importance of preventing war again. Adam said, “No matter what you study: biology, journalism, mathematics: it’s all a study of different forms of reality for us to live together. That’s the biggest thing: to prevent war again.”
Read more on Ruth First here: http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/ruth-heloise-first