In contrast to the response from the South African Defence Force (SADF), Mr de Klerk did not seek to play down the significance of the allegations, making it clear that he took them very seriously.
'I was fully informed of the situation at the time this incident occurred and gave instructions that every assistance and co-operation be given to the British authorities,' Mr de Klerk said. 'Departmental investigations are continuing and I hope to be informed of the final results in the near future.' The SADF response yesterday was to repeat as fact the cover story provided to the British police by the two agents - Captain Pamela du Randt and Leon Flores - after they were arrested in London on 15 April. In a statement, the SADF said that two members of the Defence Force had been sent to London to confirm a possible link between Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation), the military wing of the African National Congress, and the IRA. Any possible wrongdoing was an 'individual' matter.
British officials involved in monitoring the April operation dismissed the claims of Captain Du Randt and Mr Flores that they were pursuing a possible IRA- ANC connection.
During the visit, the statement said, one member, acting without the sanction or knowledge of the Defence Force or any other government authority, allegedly decided to arrange for the monitoring of Mr Coetzee. The statement added that the SADF had no interest whatsoever in the former security police captain.
However, SADF military intelligence was carrying out a thorough investigation with the close co-operation of the British authorities. 'The possibility of collusion between the individual in question and an individual or individuals who are not members of the SADF is also being investigated,' the Defence Force said.
Asked yesterday as to the whereabouts of Captain Du Randt and Mr Flores, SADF spokesman Colonel John Rolt said that, in the case of Captain Du Randt, he could not divulge this information for reasons of privacy and security. He did confirm, however, that she was not under arrest. As to Mr Flores, Colonel Rolt said he had 'found out nothing about him'.
Yesterday's Independent report said the matter had also been referred to the South African police for investigation. A spokesman for the Minister of Law and Order in Pretoria, Captain Craig Kotze, confirmed that 'reports allegedly concerning us' were being investigated by the police. But, unaware of the details of the investigation, he referred further inquiries to Colonel Reg Crewe of the police PR department.
Colonel Crewe, it turned out, was even more in the dark than Captain Kotze. He said he was aware of the Independent report - but that was all. He knew nothing of any police investigation.
The ANC's response yesterday was predictably more forthright. ANC spokesman Carl Niehaus said that 'the report from London confirmed the ANC's view that security officers are involved in planning acts of violence'.
An ANC statement last night said: 'Reports in the international media indicate that despite De Klerk's assurances of the past, the South African state still employs murder as a crucial instrument of policy. More significantly, the name of General Van der Westhuizen, head of the SADF Military Intelligence, once again is implicated in this murder plot. De Klerk still has not explained why such a person retains his position in the SADF enabling him to use the powers of his office for such nefarious purposes.'
Yesterday's Independent report coincided with an announcement by President De Klerk of a number of new measures designed to halt township violence. He promised to disband three controversial security force units, upgrade single-sex hostels, and ban the carrying of dangerous weapons. The ANC dismissed it as 'cheap party political propaganda'.