The informer gave himself up to the ANC on Wednesday and handed over a pistol, ammunition and a hit list after he discovered that one of the intended targets was the friend of a relative. The ANC alerted the Goldstone Commission, which heard the man's testimony and decided to launch an urgent investigation.
The commission's investigators have reportedly traced the pistol and ammunition to the South African Defence Force (SADF).
General Kat Liebenberg, the SADF chief, yesterday denied any official complicity in the alleged plot. 'If what is being alleged did take place, it happened without the sanction of the SADF,' a spokesman for Gen Liebenberg said, adding that the informer had left the army in 1991. He promised the army's 'full co-operation' in the investigation.
According to reports, the informer said he was given a 9mm pistol, a full magazine and a hit list two weeks ago by a senior military intelligence officer based at the SADF's headquarters outside Pretoria. He was told that he would be paid 7,000 rand (pounds 1,500) a 'hit', but decided to expose the plot when he discovered the hit list included the friend of a relative.
The killings were to have begun yesterday and most of the targets were low-level ANC officials in the Transvaal. The man said that by targeting minor activists it was hoped to avoid the violence that followed the assassination of Chris Hani.