The retired general said that the fiasco in Bophuthatswana on Friday, when dozens of people died after an ill- judged invasion by Boer commandos, had precipitated his decision to break ranks with anti-election hardliners.
General Viljoen was a founder member of the Volksfront, created in May last year in an attempt to unite some 40 factions committed to the idea of carving out a separate state for Afrikaners within South Africa's borders.
No less dramatic was the decision yesterday of the South African government, and the multi-party Transitional Executive Council (TEC), to topple the man in whose defence the right-wing army had gone to war, the Bophuthatswana president, Lucas Mangope. Somewhat implausibly - with the South African Defence Force saying it had taken full control of the 'homeland' - Mr Mangope insisted he was still in power.
Bophuthatswana was stable yesterday following the high drama of Friday, when three white members of Eugene Terre-Blanche's Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), died. Far more blacks - as many as 47 and mostly unarmed - were killed by rampaging white right-wingers. The AWB force of 4,000 was driven out by the Bophuthatswana and South African armies.
What made the headlines in South Africa yesterday, however, was the deaths of the three AWB men, luridly captured by cameramen and photographers. The response of most South Africans to the images seemed to be one of inchoate shock, although a number of black South Africans admitted yesterday to confused feelings of horror and delight.
The Conservative Party leader, Ferdi Hartzenberg, now the unchallenged chief of the rejectionist right, blamed the deaths of the AWB men on the 'ruthless ANC Communists'.