South Africa funding scandal grows

July 27, 1991|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The South African government, trying to ride out the storm over its secret funding of a black political group, was hit with new charges yesterday that police set up and funded a union to cause trouble for anti-apartheid forces.

The charges were made in the Weekly Mail, the liberal newspaper that broke the scandal about government funding of the Zulu-based Inkatha movement to bolster its image as a rival to Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.

The newspaper said it obtained police documents that state flatly that an Inkatha-affiliated union was "a project under the control of the South African police."

Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok admitted last week that the union, known as the United Workers Union of South Africa, received secret payments of more than $535,000 from the government over a six-year period. But the government provided no comment yesterday on the new charges.

The Weekly Mail quoted documents showing that police tried to use the union to block ANC events, such as a rally scheduled to welcome home Mr. Mandela and other political prisoners after their release in February 1990.

Wherever the Inkatha union established a foothold, according to the Weekly Mail, "violence has erupted with terrifying frequency." Beginning in 1986, after the union was formed, bloody factional fighting flared up in the province of Natal, where both Inkatha and the union are based.

The ANC-affiliated Congress of South African Trade Unions accused the Inkatha union of conducting a "reign of terror" against COSATU members.

The Weekly Mail said there was little evidence that the Inkatha affiliate operated as a normal trade union. "The Weekly Mail knows of no industrial action it staged, no court cases it has brought against employers, no campaign it has launched -- other than to oppose sanctions," the newspaper said.

South African government officials said the government made secret payments to the union over six years in order to help it combat sanctions.

The growing scandal over funding of ANC rivals has plunged the government of President Frederik W. de Klerk into crisis. Daily editorials and statements by political leaders call for the resignation of various Cabinet members and charge that the government has lost credibility in the eyes of millions of South Africans.

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