De Klerk drawn into row over anti-ANC plots

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The Independent Online

Cape Town

South Africa's last apartheid leader, F W de Klerk, has been accused by his former police chief of being a party to Stratcom, a violent dirty- tricks campaign against President Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.

General Johan van der Merwe said Mr de Klerk had been briefed on all security-force secret projects during the last four years of apartheid. All Stratcom operations had been overseen by a committee appointed by the former president which was chaired by his finance minister, Barend du Plessis, and included the then ministers of constitutional development, Gerrit Viljoen and justice, Kobie Coetsee.

Gen van der Merwe should know. According to leaks last week of a secret report on the security forces prepared by Judge Richard Goldstone and presented to Mr de Klerk just before last year's elections, the police chief was deeply involved in "murder, fraud, blackmail and political disinformation" attributed to a "third force".

"The leadership of the SAP [South African Police], including its Commissioner, Gen van der Merwe, are patently unsuited for their positions and should be effectively relieved of their positions forthwith," the Weekly Mail quoted the report as saying. Gen van der Merwe retired recently, having continued in his post at Mr Mandela's request for the first months of majority rule. The ANC had feared his dismissal by Mr Mandela's coalition government, in which Mr de Klerk is a deputy president, could have brought the police to the brink of revolt.

Mr de Klerk has denied his former police chief's version of events, saying the terms of reference of the committee "were not to approve of specific Stratcom projects ... (it) was a mechanism created to phase out specific projects."

A former security police agent, Paul Erasmus, said Stratcom included bugging ANC telephones, interception of its mail, illegal entry into ANC premises, and propaganda, including forging an invitation to the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, to attend the 1990 ANC congress in Durban, with a view to reducing British sympathy for the ANC. In reality, the ANC waited for a ceasefire in Northern Ireland before inviting Mr Adams, who visited last month.

Public quarrels among the former enforcers of apartheid have highlighted divisions in the former ruling National Party between hardliners who accuse its leadership of caving in to Mr Mandela and those who want to continue co-operation with the President. The latter include the former provincial affairs minister, Roelf Meyer, his party's chief negotiator in the deal which led to last April's free election.

Yesterday Mr Mandela blamed apartheid for South Africa's crime rate, asking a rally near Durban: "Were you aware that in this country, where whites only constitute 14 per cent of the population, 82 per cent of the police were deployed in white areas and only 18 per cent in the rest of the country? Were you aware that most vehicles of the police were concentrated in white areas and in the black areas [there were] only a few vehicles?"

Police constables until recently received monthly salaries of about 900 rand (pounds 155), the President said. "What policeman could be motivated if he was so exploited?"