SA terror 'mastermind' arrested: Colonel exposed by the 'Independent' faces murder trial

A retired security police colonel accused of being the key figure in South Africa's 'third force' terror campaign has been arrested in Pretoria, police sources said yesterday. Colonel Eugene de Kock, who was detained on Wednesday night, is due to be charged with murder in a Pretoria court this morning.

Colonel de Kock was named last month in a report by the Goldstone Commission of Inquiry into political violence as the cog around which state-sponsored political violence has revolved during the last four years. The report said that he had worked closely with officials of the largely Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party to orchestrate township wars which have claimed 12,000 lives since 1990.

Specifically, the report said that Colonel de Kock, the former head of a clandestine police unit called C10, had smuggled weapons to Inkatha in exchange for payment; that he had organised random killings of black train commuters; and that he had personally taken part in political killings.

Colonel de Kock was also identified two years ago by the Independent as the mastermind behind an attempt to assassinate a former colleague, police defector Dirk Coetzee, in London. The British police uncovered a plot involving de Kock to kill Coetzee in collaboration with para-military Ulster loyalists. Complaints by the British government to Pretoria never received a satisfactory response.

Indeed a year ago, upon retirement, Colonel de Kock received a golden handsake of 1.2 million Rand ( pounds 280,000). The Goldstone report said the payment had been made with the blessing of President F W de Klerk's cabinet. While Colonel de Kock was officially too junior to qualify for such an amount, his record of dubious service on behalf of the South African state stretches back to the early Eighties when he headed 'Koevoet', a security police unit in Namibia which was denounced by Amnesty International and other international human rights groups.

Police sources said he had been arrested by a special team of Goldstone investigators, some of them foreign policemen, at the International Police Association bar in Pretoria. He was said to have been 'absolutely shocked'. In the words of a member of the Goldstone team, he considered himself to be 'superhuman and above the law'.

The word from police sources last night was that more arrests were expected to follow. A possible target for arrest might be Themba Khoza, the Inkatha leader in the Transvaal. Mr Koza was identified by the Goldstone report as a C10 agent who had been on the payroll since 1989. General Basie Smit, who retired as deputy commissioner of police on Tuesday, is another. The Goldstone report said that C10 had orchestrated the 'black-on-black' violence campaign with General Smit's blessing.

General Smit retired following statements on Tuesday by the Transvaal Attorney General Jan d'Oliviera, who has been investigating the Goldstone report with a view to taking criminal action.

'Our investigations,' Mr d'Oliviera said, 'confirm the existence of prima facie evidence that crimes ranging from murder, bombings, and the unlawful possession and supply of arms and ammunition, to the large-scale fraudulent manipulation of the procedure to obtain money from state funds have allegedly been committed by certain former members of a certain police branch (since disbanded).'