Right-wingers targeted him, S. African Communist says

May 12, 1993|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The leader of the South African Communist Party was allegedly the object of an assassination plot that he says was aimed at derailing negotiations on ending apartheid.

Joe Slovo, a top official of the African National Congress (ANC) who is chairman of the country's Communist Party, blamed the plot on right-wingers.

"I think there is a broader conspiracy by forces determined to de-stabilize the negotiation process," Mr. Slovo said yesterday at a news conference called after a Johannesburg newspaper splashed an account of the alleged plot across its front page.

Mr. Slovo's deputy in the Communist Party, Chris Hani, was killed by an assassin last month, touching off a week of violence. A Polish national was charged with that killing, and two prominent right-wing political figures have been named as conspirators. Police said then that Mr. Slovo's name was one of several found on a list of assassination targets.

"I am very certain that there are more plotters than meets the eye," Mr. Slovo said yesterday. "I think they are being incited by the resurgent right wing in the recent period.

"I think the right wing now is becoming desperate, a desperation that is linked to the very positive prospects which are emerging from the negotiation process. Therefore, anything is possible. People who are desperate are capable of the most dastardly acts.

"Nor can we underestimate the possibility that in various levels of the state apparatus are people who are not as anxious as they should be to protect people in my position."

Mr. Slovo said he learned of the alleged plot against him not from the police, but from a reporter for the Johannesburg Star. When officials of the ANC asked the police commissioner, they said, he told them he knew nothing about it but would look into it. Shortly thereafter, the commissioner reportedly confirmed the plot, which was said to have involved four right-wingers, three of them South Africans and one an Eastern European.

"I don't want to be immodest about my role in the political scene, but I am one of the senior negotiators, I do hold a high position in one of the organizations taking part in the process," Mr. Slovo said. "It is quite beyond me how a police force which receives information about a threat against a senior political leader does not inform even its commissioner."

A police spokesman said Mr. Slovo had been informed of the alleged conspiracy in the early stages and that a fuller investigation of the plot had been cut short when a reporter, posing as a police officer, talked to a police informant.

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