Conspirators talked of 'taking us out'

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The Independent Online
I ONCE met Colonel Eugene de Kock, the mastermind behind South Africa's township wars. He bought me breakfast at a small cafe in Pretoria on the ground floor of the police headquarters building.

That was in November 1991. I was working on a joint Independent-BBC project investigating the 'Third Force'. I had been witnessing the slaughter in the black townships for more than a year and had become convinced that elements in the security forces were orchestrating the Inkatha terrorists behind the scenes.

The evidence, as we discovered, abounded. Proof was another thing - especially as 90 per cent of the dozen or so serving and retired members of the police and army undercover services we spoke to would not go on the record.

I organised a meeting with De Kock through a shady friend of his. I wanted to see him because we had been told by some of his former colleagues - in the security police and Military Intelligence, which often worked closely together - that 'Gene' was still up to his old tricks.

Under the P W Botha regime, he had served in the brutal 'Koevoet' unit in the Namibian war, and upon his return home had set about several murders of ANC officials.

A large man with thick, black-framed glasses and a slight stutter, he told me that he was in the business of intercepting smuggled weapons. My belief that he was smuggling them himself was confirmed by other sources then - and now by Judge Goldstone's report.

De Kock featured prominently in the documentary we made for Assignment, 'War on Peace', as did another of his co-conspirators mentioned in the judge's report, General Jac Buchner, who was chief of the security police in Natal from 1987 to 1989, then became chief of the KwaZulu police, directly under Chief Buthelezi.

We revealed how the police were supplying guns to Inkatha for the assassination of ANC supporters, and linked the same hidden conspirators - including Themba Khoza - to the train killings.

At the end of 1992, we also revealed in the Independent how De Kock had conspired with Ulster loyalists to kill a police defector, Dirk Coetzee, on the streets of London.

I have since discovered that De Kock and his people bugged my home and that he had read lengthy transcripts of our conversations. I have also discovered that, in their panic at how close we were getting to the truth of their activities, they discussed 'taking us out'.

It was with some distress, but little surprise, that I learnt several months back that De Kock had received a 1.2m rand (pounds 240,000) pay-out for his silence a year ago upon his official retirement from the police force. Judge Goldstone confirmed this on Friday, and then added that the 'packet' had been approved by the South African cabinet.