MPLA’s British handler dies

The British MI6 spy, Michael Wolfers, died in London at the start of a private dinner in one of London’s most exclusive clubs to celebrate the milestone 75th birthday of his close friend of 56-years’ standing, Lord Bragg, on October 15.

He was a devout Marxist for the Foreign Office in London.

Michael Wolfers
Michael Wolfers

Wolfers, working undercover as a journalist, left The Times in 1973 and in 1975 became an adviser on political and media matters to the MPLA in Luanda.

The MPLA was dominated by a network of well-educated, often prosperous whites, like Wolfers, working to end “colonial rule”.

Michael Wolfers, who never married, will be cremated at the Jewish cemetery in Golders Green, London, on Tuesday, October 21, 2014.

In the past two decades he had travelled widely as an election observer for the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Carter Center, monitoring polls in countries such as Rwanda, Bosnia, Madagascar and Togo.

Five years ago he had an apartment built in in Lomé, the capital of Togo, which he grandly named “Villa Wolfers”.

Lara Pawson recently challenged the superficial account of the violent repression by the MPLA in her book In the Name of the People: Angola’s Forgotten Massacre, London: I.B.Tauris, 2014.

Pawson’s gripping study of the events of 27 May 1977 in Angola show the utter ruthlessness of the MPLA, advised by the likes of Wolfers.

Her meticulous account demonstrates the extreme ferocity of the MPLA response – the killings, torture, mass purges and also the way that personal scores were settled under the guise of purging the party of alleged “factionalists” and “racists”.

Most importantly, it shows how the killings of perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 party members or supporters, the cloak of secrecy thrown over the events and their aftermath and the all-pervading fear that resulted, have helped maintain the dominance of a small clique and its clients within the MPLA and through the party’s hegemony over Angola and its resources.

The book starts with events the author witnessed in Luanda in 2000 and how people even two decades later or longer feared expressing open opposition because of the lessons of 27 May. The extent of the killings, torture, detentions and purges left an indelible mark on Angolan politics.

Wolfers was one of 16 guests savouring the first course at the men-only Garrick Club when an evening of celebration turned into one of horror.

Despite attempts by paramedics for more than an hour-and-a-half to revive him, he was declared dead before he arrived at St Thomas Hospital on South Bank, close to his home in Waterloo.

“We’d been close friends for 56 years,” Lord Bragg told a reporter from the Daily Mail. “He made close friendships. He was much loved. He was very highly regarded.”

Michael Wolfers was the product of exclusive and expensive primary and secondary education and was an outstanding scholar at Wadham College, Oxford University in the late 1950s.

It was there he met young Bragg who came from an English working-class background but who went on to become one of Britain’s best known media figures.

After an apprenticeship on a north of England newspaper, Michael Wolfers joined The Times and was that paper’s correspondent in various parts of Africa until 1973.

When in London, Wolfers was a familiar figure at Chatham House. He was fluent in Portuguese and several other languages and a well-respected authority on both the MPLA in Angola and FRELIMO in Mozambique.