JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The African National Congress called for the resignation of two top Cabinet ministers yesterday as the government of President F. W. de Klerk sought to contain the fallout from a major scandal involving political payoffs.
The ANC, Nelson Mandela's anti-apartheid organization, said the scandal posed a threat to South Africa's peace process, which zTC only recently began to get back on track after months of delay and confrontation between the ANC and government leaders.
"The revelations are a clear indication the de Klerk government has been pursuing a twin-track strategy of posing as committed to peace while waging war against the democratic movement," ANC leaders said in a statement released after a meeting called to discuss the scandal.
The organization, which has been negotiating with the government for more than a year, targeted Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok and Defense Minister Magnus Malan. It said the ANC "rejects with contempt the hollow double talk offered by Minister Adriaan Vlok and his colleagues to explain away this abuse of public funds for blatantly partisan political purposes."
While ANC leaders met in Johannesburg, Mr. de Klerk's Cabinet huddled in an undisclosed location to decide how to handle the most damaging scandal to hit South Africa since the government began a program of political reforms last year.
There was widespread speculation that Mr. Vlok would be forced to resign, following his acknowledgment that the government had secretly spent thousands of dollars to shore up the ANC's chief rival.
Demands for him to step down, along with the defense minister and Foreign Minister Roelof "Pik" Botha, escalated as the scandal continued to grow. Two newspapers said they had more damaging information against the government that would be published later in the week.
Mr. Vlok and Mr. Botha have admitted that money was paid to the Zulu-based Inkatha movement from a secret government fund. But they maintained that the funds were not political and were given as part of a campaign to fight sanctions against South Africa.
They responded to a report in a weekly newspaper Friday that the government had paid 250,000 rands (about $90,000) to finance Inkatha rallies in 1989 and 1990. Under questioning, Mr. Vlok conceded that the government may have given 1.5 million rands (about $600,000) to Inkatha over a six-year period. But he said such funding had ended when Mr. de Klerk's reform program began.