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South African Election Guide: De Klerk set to protect 'third force' men

PRESIDENT F W de Klerk is expected to make an announcement today concerning an indemnity for members of the security forces involved in political violence. It is unclear whether this will be a blanket indemnity but it is expected to encourage serving and former policemen involved in 'third force' activities to desist from disrupting the election next week.

Speaking for 48 other former police generals, the ex-police commissioner General Mike Geldenhuys said on Thursday that the government had betrayed promises to protect members of the security forces. 'Although the present government, and those before it, repeatedly gave the assurance that they would protect the interests of the security police, the opposite now appears to be true,' the general said.

'It looks as if the government is seeking scapegoats and will surrender some members to the mercy of our former foes.'

Today's announcement is expected to answer the general's concerns and thereby strengthen the commitment of the police to protect the election. White right-wing groups throughout South Africa are threatening to disrupt the elections with violence. But as long as the police remain loyal to the government and protect the election, they will have no political effect.

The bulk of the police will support the government and act against right-wing law-breakers, according to most analysts here. 'We can expect right-wing bomb attacks and industrial sabotage but the security forces will act against the right,' said Jakkie Cilliers, director of the Institute for Defence Policy.

General Geldenhuys expressed the prevailing political views of the police's senior echelons when he pledged the support of 48 retired generals for Constand Viljoen and the Freedom Front. Mr Viljoen is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with the government and the ANC in Pretoria today on the contentious issue of the volkstaat, an independent white state. Details of the agreement are not yet known but it will finally secure the Freedom Front's participation in the election. The police generals' support for the front at least commits them to taking part in the election.

But General Geldenhuys also made his feelings about the ANC and the government clear when he bitterly attacked President de Klerk and the National Party for allowing the ANC and the South African Communist Party 'to destabilise the country'.

'A disciplined force such as the SAP (South African Police) carries out its orders without questioning the politics,' said General Geldenhuys, but added: 'To now hold individual members responsible for specific and vaguely defined alleged irregularities is going to extremes.' He was referring to the recent suspension of three police generals named by the Goldstone Commission of inquiry into a 'third force' operating illegally in South Africa.

In Bloemfontein an office of the Independent Electoral Commission was bombed on Thursday afternoon. No one was injured in the explosion. Two other bombs in nearby towns failed to explode. The paramilitary Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) has said it is deploying 'thousands of its members' into the Transvaal and Orange Free State to save the country 'from a bloodbath'. A Conservative MP, Kobus Beyers, said actions were being planned to disrupt the election next week but he did not specify what they would be.