Jani Allan Libel Case: Shadow of violence hung over trial

Two years ago a bomb exploded outside Jani Allan's Johannesburg flat, causing her to flee to Britain and what she assumed would be safety.

But behind the bedroom farce of the libel trial over the past fortnight, there has been a shadow reflecting the ever-present threat of violence in a South Africa in political flux. She reported to the court a fortnight ago that she had just received a mysterious telephone call warning her that if she continued with the case her life would be in danger.

Then came two burglaries, not disclosed to the jury, one at Miss Allan's flat and one at the hotel room of Marlene Burger, news editor of her old paper the Sunday Times in Johannesburg, who was giving evidence for the other side. It is not known what, if anything, was stolen from either premises.

Finally, during the lunch adjournment three days ago, Anthony Travers, who claimed to be acting as observer for Eugene Terre-Blanche's Afrikaaner Resistance Movement, was stabbed and seriously wounded in the lavatory of a public house opposite the High Court.

He had told Richard Dowden, the Independent's Africa Editor, at the start of the trial that attempts were being made on his life. Mr Travers said he suspected supporters of the AWB of trying to kill him because he had befriended Ms Allan and they were afraid he might reveal damaging information about Mr Terre- Blanche. But he also said his attackers could be South African government agents.

Someone had broken into his house last month, hit him over the head and searched the house. Several items had been taken, but not tapes which he said contained important information.

He had also received threatening telephone calls, one of which implied he was being watched and followed.

Mr Travers, a businessman and gun dealer who lives in Twickenham, contacted the Independent after the publication of an article about an attempt on the life of Dirk Coetzee, the former South African policeman now living in hiding in Britain and the subject of an assassination attempt by a South African hit squad.

Mr Travers came to the office of the Independent on 20 July and produced papers showing that he was the British representative of the AWB. Mr Travers, of mixed British and German parentage, has a long connection with the far right in southern Africa and five years ago he was beaten up by black South Africans who suspected him of being a South African agent spying on the offices of the African National Congress in London.

When Jani Allan came to London, Mr Travers contacted her. Recently he said he had helped her with accommodation and financial problems. This was known to the AWB and when she sued Channel 4 Television, he said he was contacted by a man with a German accent who claimed to be the new AWB representative in Britain and that he, Mr Travers, no longer represented the movement.

He added that one of the threatening telephone calls had been made by this man. The callers were concerned that because of his friendship with Jani Allan he would give evidence at the trial which would be damaging to Mr Terre-Blanche.

Mr Travers said he had no intention of giving such information, but he intended to attend the trial every day to demonstrate moral support for Ms Allan.