Plotting general breaks cover to organise the right: Pretoria's former military intelligence chief launches a public crusade to confront both the government and the ANC

GENERAL Tienie Groenewald, a former air attache at the South African embassy in London, has been kept under close scrutiny for some time by those sectors of the intelligence services loyal to President F W de Klerk. The task has been made less difficult in the past week by his decision to come into the open about his plans to help forge a far-right front against the government and the African National Congress, allies in seeking a negotiated democratic settlement.

Gen Groenewald was head of Military Intelligence (MI) in the mid- 1980s under President P W Botha, and was one of the half-dozen most powerful people in South Africa. His tasks included orchestrating covert schemes to assist the Unita and Renamo insurgents in Angola and Mozambique. During this time, too, MI identified Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha movement as a useful instrument in promoting division and violent instability among blacks. The aim was to stop the African National Congress from taking power, to derail what was described as a Moscow-orchestrated Communist 'total onslaught'.

The world has changed but Gen Groenewald's views have not. He retains close contacts with serving and retired members of the security forces and has engaged in discussions with politicians who share his belief in the need to create an independent Afrikaner 'fatherland' free of the ANC's Communist contagion.

As the South African press has now revealed, Gen Groenewald has broadened his scope and emerged as the key figure in a 'Committee of Generals' - retired army and police officers - who see it as their task to galvanise the fragmented right wing into forging a united plan of action.

In an interview with the Johannesburg Star yesterday, Gen Groenewald denied he was hatching plans for a new 'armed struggle' but defended people's right to 'self-protection'. Such a need might come about should the Afrikaners he represents opt, 'as a last resort', for secession.

First, however, he defined the committee's objective as unifying the right wing, at present divided into more than 50 small, squabbling sub-groups. Second, pressure - in the form of mass protest if necessary - would be applied for the creation of an Afrikaner state. Specifically, this meant bolstering the positions of a loose right-wing alliance taking part in multi-party talks, the Concerned South Africans Grouping (Cosag).

Cosag was founded late last year at the initiative of Chief Buthelezi and includes the Inkatha Freedom Party, the right-wing Conservative Party, a marginally more moderate body called the Afrikaner Volksunie, and the governments of the so-called 'homelands' of Ciskei and Bophuthatswana. Each in their separate ways strives to preserve the power and privilege obtained under the apartheid system.

Elections are anathema to Cosag and Gen Groenewald. These may only take place, they insist, once a system of nation-states entrenching modified versions of the old apartheid power blocs has been put into a constitution.

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