'Third force' informant flees SA in fear

An officer in the South African police who helped the Goldstone Commission nail down the 'third force' link between a clandestine police unit, Inkatha and township violence has fled the country in fear of his life.

Captain Kobus 'Chappie' Klopper flew out of Cape Town to a secret European destination on Tuesday night in the care of detectives assigned to Judge Richard Goldstone's commission of inquiry into political violence.

Capt Klopper, 27, turned to the commission for protection after he had attended a meeting on Monday with the Commissioner of the police, General Johan van der Merwe. Three days earlier Judge Goldstone had released his report on the 'third force', saying that a policeman he called 'Q' had been one of his main sources of information on the involvement of, among other senior officers, deputy police commissioner Basie Smit in a township terror campaign that has claimed thousands of lives.

Gen van der Merwe summoned Capt Klopper - whom he believed to be 'Q' - to Pretoria through a message on a pager. Moments earlier he had received another message, a hoax, conveying 'condolences upon' the deaths of his parents and his girlfriend, who is also a police officer.

What transpired at the meeting is not clear. What is known is that General van der Merwe was not alone. What is also known is that Capt Klopper was persuaded to sign a statement. The upshot was that, upon leaving the meeting, Capt Klopper headed straight back to his new friends on the Goldstone Commission and, instead of playing by General van der Merwe's rules and producing the statement, flew from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

There he remained a whole nerve-racking day before heading out in the evening, under the watchful eye of his handlers, to Cape Town airport to catch a flight to Frankfurt. Despite the strong suspicion that they were being watched by members of C10, the police dirty tricks department, he boarded the plane safely. He landed in Frankfurt on Wednesday morning and proceeded from there to his final destination.

He is receiving protection at present but, the Independent has learnt, he remains terrified and reluctant to speak out despite being so far from his tormentors back home.

There are two reasons for this. He told the Johannesburg Star on Monday that the operational head of the police terror unit, Colonel Eugene de Kock, had warned him the last time he saw him that he had to 'watch his back'. In 1992, Col de Kock, who has a legendary ability to track his prey, organised an attempt on the life of another police defector, Captain Dirk Coetzee, on the streets of London.

Capt Klopper is also understood to be concerned that in his absence his parents and his girlfriend might be targeted. Compounding his fears is his awareness that he has become a pawn in a big, high-stakes game. The battle raging in the last week between President F W de Klerk and the generals named in Judge Goldstone's report has not ended yet. General Smit, for one, has refused to abide by Mr de Klerk's order that he take compulsory leave.

Capt Klopper is not the only policeman to have provided the Goldstone Commission with the damning 'third force' testimony. But while he has denied that he was the mysterious 'Q', his erstwhile associates in C10 unit appear to believe that he was lying. Colonel de Kock described him in an Afrikaans newspaper as a 'Judas Iscariot'.

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