Police armed ANC foe

March 19, 1994|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Top South African Police officials have armed and aided the Inkatha Freedom Party in its war against the African National Congress (ANC), a commission investigating violence in this country reported yesterday.

According to testimony gathered by the prestigious Goldstone Commission, three generals in the South African Police were among those involved in gun running, weapons manufacture and political hit squads, as well as organizing violence in hostels and on trains, for at least the last four years.

This is the best evidence yet of the often-charged existence of a "third force" of right-wing government officials who orchestrated the violence between Inkatha and the ANC to destabilize the country.

That violence is blamed for the majority of South Africa's political deaths. President F. W. de Klerk and his minister of law and order, Hernus Kriel, have consistently blamed the leadership of those groups for the situation while denying involvement by state structures.

Yesterday, speaking at a news conference called to release the report, Mr. de Klerk maintained that the bulk of the violence is still the responsibility of those two groups and said:

"Any conclusion that the South African Police as a force was involved in political violence is more than grossly unfair; it's absolutely unacceptable."

But, he said, "This is the first time evidence has been laid before us on the existence of a third force. I am keeping my promise to take immediate action. I want to emphasize that we are dealing with the possibility that a relatively small group of people within the police are involved."

The three generals implicated in the report are Basie Smit, who as deputy commissioner is the No. 2 man in the force; Krappies Engelbrecht, head of counterintelligence, and Johan le Roux.

The report comes amid growing, potentially violent, defiance in the Inkatha stronghold of KwaZulu.

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini said yesterday that he was ready to proclaim an independent kingdom in KwaZulu rather than take part in the April 26-28 election, the country's first nonracial vote.

The king and Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi say the guiding forces in South Africa have not given them sufficient assurances of local power under the new constitution.

Citing an assassination threat, ANC President Nelson Mandela canceled a long-sought meeting with the king that was to have taken place yesterday in the KwaZulu capital of Ulundi.

Mr. Mandela also backed out of an appearance today at a rally in another troubled area of Natal.

The KwaZulu police were implicated in the Goldstone Commission report for running political hit squads. Survivors of massacres told the commission that the very people who carried out the killings later showed up in police uniforms to investigate them. Other evidence showed that when KwaZulu police members involved in hit squads were transferred to previously peaceful areas deadly violence soon broke out.

Police dragging feet

"The commission is satisfied that the KwaZulu Police is presently dragging its feet (probably a generous description) in investigating the presence of hit squads within its ranks," the report states.

The report names Themba Khoza, the head of Inkatha in the

Johannesburg area, as one of the main recipients of weapons supplied by police officials over the last several years.

The officials are said to have acted not just for ideological reasons, but also for financial ones, receiving large payments for the weapons,some of which were smuggled from Namibia and Mozambique.

Mr. Khoza also is implicated in the killing Nov. 7, 1993, of 12 people in an ANC compound near the Natal town of Nqutu after the party, fearing violence, called off a rally scheduled for that day.

At the news conference, Mr. de Klerk said that all those in the police named in the report, ranging from the generals down to members of a local burglary squad, were immediately put on leave. He said he will work with the Transition Executive Council, the body overseeing South Africa's government leading up to the election, to appoint an international body to investigate the commission's evidence and report within two weeks.

Any decision to prosecute will come out of those findings.

"We dare not allow this dark cloud to hang over the election," he said.

Aborted election feared

Judge Richard Goldstone said that his commission would have liked to continue its investigation but

considered it necessary to make these findings public because the election is only six weeks away.

"If those intent on further destabilization succeed in aborting the election, an investigation afterward would be a futile exercise," the report states.

According to the report, the investigation began when an officer of the South African Police "who has a number of years' experience" approached the commission last month and agreed to talk as long as his identity was concealed.

Subsequent investigations corroborated many of his statements about police involvement in everything from training Inkatha members in the use of hand grenades to siphoning the weapons through the security chief of a local bank.

Much of the information is coming from officers who are trying to please those who will be their new bosses after the election, which the ANC is considered certain to win.

That includes members of the KwaZulu police.

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