S. Africa secretly paid for paramilitary training of 200 Inkatha youths, aide says

March 01, 1992|By New York Times News Service

PRETORIA, South Africa -- The South African armed forces secretly spent more than $1 million for paramilitary training and wages for 200 young loyalists of the Zulu political movement Inkatha, a former aide to Inkatha's leader said Friday.

But the aide, Melchizedec Zakhele Khumalo, who worked for 15 years as a personal assistant to Inkatha Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, said that Chief Buthelezi was not aware that the money, channeled through a confidential bank account that the two of them controlled, had come from the South African military.

Allegations of South African government assistance to Inkatha have hovered over the country's politics in recent years. The principal nationalist movement, the African National Congress, has accused the Pretoria government of abetting Inkatha in its efforts to gain pre-eminence among South African black organizations.

More than 12,000 people have been killed since 1984 in clashes between followers of Inkatha and those of the ANC and its allies, and the ANC initially refused to enter into negotiations until the government took firm steps to end the violence.

In July, a newspaper report disclosed that the government had poured nearly $88,000 into an Inkatha slush fund in 1989 and 1990. The scandal shook the government of President F. W. de Klerk, who took office after most of the payments were made. The president promised to stop payments.

Mr. Khumalo resigned as Chief Buthelezi's aide after taking responsibility for handling the government payments, which were used for two Inkatha political rallies.

The latest testimony of Mr. Khumalo, who remains on Inkatha's executive committee, supports accusations that some government funds were used for paramilitary training of Inkatha members, and it greatly increases the amount of money reported to have been spent on Inkatha.

Mr. Khumalo said he recruited the youths in 1986 to become bodyguards for Inkatha officials. He conceded that he asked no questions about Richard's Appointments Ltd., which paid the bills, or Swart Security Services, the company that ran the training course, and learned only later that both were fronts for the South African military.

Mr. Khumalo said he did not witness any of the training given to the recruits, although he paid three visits to their restricted base in the Caprivi Strip, a panhandle of northern South-West Africa then fortified by the South African military.

"If they had been trained in inciting violence, it would be contrary to the philosophy of Inkatha," Mr. Khumalo said.

Inkatha critics say the men were mobilized into hit squads to be used in the lethal warfare raging in Natal province.

The former aide's assertions that he did not want to know more about a secret project for which he took responsibility elicited skepticism from members of the Goldstone Commission, the independent panel that had summoned him.

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