South African Election: The fear that stops De Klerk tackling terrorists: Commentary

PRESIDENT de Klerk said yesterday that he would leave no stone unturned in his efforts to track down the terrorists who are attempting, at the eleventh hour, to sabotage the South African elections.

He has said this before. His response to allegations four years ago that right-wing elements in the security forces had embarked on a violent campaign to destabilise the democratic process was that he would 'cut to the bone'. He failed badly then, and one hopes he will not fail again.

The question is whether Mr de Klerk, by taking action much earlier, might not have avoided this last-minute panic - all these people being torn to pieces on the streets of Johannesburg. Nelson Mandela never tires of reminding him that he has been slack in grappling with the extreme right, and with the threat from within the security forces.

The commandos of Eugene Terre-Blanche's Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) have been holding paramilitary training exercises openly, putting on special displays for the television cameras, admitting their objective was to wage war against 'the Communists' of the African National Congress. There has always been buffoonery in the AWB and, perhaps, Mr Terre-Blanche's overgrown boy- scout commandos never represented much of a threat. But operating within the folds of the AWB have been cells of fanatics driven by the same paranoia which inspires Mr Terre-Blanche's oratory.

The police have taken action recently against some extremists, but more often they have been released after brisk, gentlemanly, interrogation. The security forces have never pursued the extreme right with the zeal they displayed against the ANC in the Eighties, when the organisation was banned. To which they might reply, with some justice, that the AWB has never been illegal.

Where the government has a lot to answer for is in its failure to explore the countless allegations made in the press about a 'third force' within the police and army. More so, given the findings released last month of the commission of inquiry into political violence, chaired by Judge Richard Goldstone. The judge found conclusively that a 'third force' existed, and that a security police colonel by the name of Eugene de Kock had planned the killings of commuters on trains, had trained Inkatha hit- squads and provided them with guns, and had deployed his own hit- squads within a clandestine police unit he himself led to kill black civilians. Judge Goldstone implicated three police generals, whose only punishment has been suspension from duty on full pay.

The most serious question that remains to be answered is why the South African Cabinet approved a 1.2m rand ( pounds 280,000) pay-off to Colonel de Kock on his retirement from the police a year ago. The only answer one can come up with is that he received the money to keep quiet. Presumably the fear that he might sing explains why he has not been arrested.

It is people with the expertise of Colonel de Kock who are carrying out the present terror campaign. No ordinary AWB farmer, no amateur right-wing loony, would be capable of planting car bombs in the middle of cities and getting away with it.

Why, then, has Mr de Klerk not reined them in? Because he feared what they might do, if he antagonised them. Because he calculated he would lose support in the white community and risk unleashing a full-blown civil war against the democratic process. He felt, above all, that he had to keep the security forces on board. Which he has largely done.

Maybe his calculation was right. Maybe things would be far worse today if he had acted with conviction against the right wing. But don't doubt for a minute that if 15,000 whites had died in political violence in the last four years instead of 15,000 blacks, heads would have rolled long ago.

exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

C# Developer

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: My client is lo...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor