ANC to march on a centre of apartheid intrigue

Click to follow
A WHITE line across a minor road outside King William's Town in the Eastern Cape will, for a few hours today, define the divide between the new South Africa and the old. The African National Congress plans to march to the line - an otherwise unmarked international boundary no government but Pretoria recognises - and then to cross it. On the other side of the line sits the target of the ANC's wrath, Brigadier Oupa Gqozo, military dictator of the Ciskei black 'homeland'. The brigadier would happily shoot every marcher who steps into his territory, but it will be Pretoria that decides what its puppet will do.

But why is the ANC concerned with deposing a man whose power will evaporate with his borders under a post-apartheid constitution? Interviews with former senior intelligence officers from Ciskei and South Africa reveal the extent to which the 'homeland' of 1 million people became a key element of the security forces' anti-ANC strategy after President FW de Klerk ushered in the 'new South Africa' in February 1990.

The purpose of the strategy, according to a former Ciskei intelligence chief, Lieutenant-Colonel Zanomzi Zantsi, and a former South African intelligence officer, Colonel Gert Hugo, was to prevent the ANC from organising in Ciskei, and also to build a covert military force for use beyond its borders, especially in the neighbouring Transkei 'homeland'.

The two territories are important targets for subversion because they are populated by Xhosas, widely considered a pillar of ANC support. To this end, South African Military Intelligence (MI) set up a unit that deluded Brig Gqozo, then an ANC sympathiser, into believing the ANC was trying to kill him, and set up a political party in Ciskei modelled on the ANC's arch-rival, Inkatha.

'The South Africans demanded Gqozo must stop aligning himself with the ANC. At the same time they peppered him with disinformation. They told him Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation - the ANC's armed wing) was trying to overthrow him. It was a total strategy to divide the Xhosas in Ciskei from the Xhosas in Transkei, and to alienate Gqozo from the ANC. It was very successful,' Col Zantsi said.

His account is backed by Vuyo Malane, a former bodyguard to Brig Gqozo who joined the covert unit set up by the South Africans, and by another Ciskei officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Lalela Naka. All the sources say they were forced out by the South Africans because they opposed the strategy.

Brig Gqozo was still in his pyjamas when senior Ciskei Defence Force officers came to him in March 1990, a month after Nelson Mandela's release, to ask the brigadier to replace the unpopular dictator, Lennox Sebe. The coup shook Pretoria's security establishment, suspicious of Brig Gqozo's ANC sympathies. Col Hugo, then with the South African Defence Force (SADF), and later to head Ciskei's military intelligence, met the coup leaders at the South African ambassador's residence.

'The whole atmosphere in the intelligence community was that the messiah (Mandela) had come and that there was going to be uprising and revolution. The SADF already had an intervention plan against Ciskei if it became an ANC or unfriendly camp. The Ciskei contingent came to see us; they were afraid of military intervention. Gqozo was there, wearing a windcheater over his pyjama top, and we called (Foreign Minister) Pik Botha from the ambassador's residence. We persuaded Pik that Gqozo would be OK,' Col Hugo said.

But Brig Gqozo's appearance the day of the coup on a platform with the ANC led South African Military Intelligence to conclude that he would either have to be brought on side or driven out. Within weeks, Anton Nieuwoudt, an MI officer with a long history of covert work, had turned the dictator's head and by mid- 1990 set up International Research (IR) as the brigadier's personal intelligence organisation. Its headquarters was Brig Gqozo's Blacklands farm. Col Hugo says that although Mr Nieuwoudt had officially left the South African Defence Force, he continued to report directly to Military Intelligence. Col Zantsi watched as International Research's influence over his boss reduced him to near-permanent paranoia.

'Gradually Gqozo started shifting. Then the whole disinformation thing started. Always IR's information centred around the ANC. Always it was plotting to take over Ciskei. Always funny things, not credible. I asked Nieuwoudt one day about why the information was always about the ANC but not one piece of intelligence about the South African Defence Force or South Africa. He said the main danger was the ANC,' Col Zantsi said. All the while, International Research was building a secret military force and stockpiling weapons, including anti- aircraft missiles, rocket-propelled grenade- launchers and Semtex explosives that had little relevance to the defensive role of the Ciskei Defence Force.

The pro-ANC military ruler of Transkei, General Bantu Holomisa, was high on the IR's hit-list. In November 1990 a disgruntled Transkei officer, Colonel Craig Duli, lost his life in a botched coup that Pretoria clearly knew about beforehand. The surviving conspirators said Brig Gqozo was expected to provide back-up from covert forces in the Ciskei.

In the middle of last year another key element of the strategy was put into place, the creation of Brig Gqozo's own political party, the African Democratic Movement (ADM). Mr Nieuwoudt intended it to cause the same anti-ANC disruption in the Ciskei and Transkei as was provided by Inkatha in Natal, and later the Reef. Brig Gqozo insists there is nothing sinister about the ADM.

So does its general secretary, Basie Oosthuyzen, a 28-year-old white man with a background in the military and intelligence but no political experience. He was on International Research's payroll for three months while he was head of the ADM. He says nothing should be read into his payment by an intelligence organisation. 'When I was recruited by Gqozo to come and work for him, International Research offered to pay my salary for an interim period. It was simply an administrative convenience. I had nothing to do with IR,' said Mr Oosthuyzen, who previously worked for a Military Intelligence front company providing anti-Communist material to South African Defence Force units. He is now also employed as adviser to the brigadier.

The ADM has copied Inkatha's tactic of bullying or bribing tribal headmen into joining the movement and resisting ANC influence in their villages.

By the time the ADM was up and running, International Research's existence was well publicised. Brig Gqozo acknowledged an intelligence role and formalised IR's relationship with his government by renaming it the Ciskei Intelligence Service (CIS) in mid-1991.

The South African government and army have consistently denied involvement in or knowledge of IR and CIS. Yet, when it was apparent that Mr Nieuwoudt and his colleagues were out of control and cooking up a scheme to build a private army, the South African Defence Force chief, General 'Kat' Liebenberg, and the then Deputy Director of Foreign Affairs, Rusty Evans, met Brig Gqozo in August last year to tell him that the organisation would have to be shut down. Revealingly, Mr Nieuwoudt and his colleagues were 'taken back' into the SADF. But, according to Col Hugo, the strategy remains in place, if lower-key, because the myth of 'homeland' independence permits the South African authorities to claim such activities are beyond its jurisdiction.

'The policy is still to keep Gqozo in power. Officially it's no more dirty tricks in Ciskei, but the policy is still to prevent the ANC from developing support and to develop the ADM. The South African Defence Force and Military Intelligence are still there, running the Ciskei Defence Force. And Gqozo still phones Nieuwoudt for advice,' said Col Hugo.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments