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President Moved in Secret To Purge Generals, Newspaper Reports

December 20, 1992

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ President F.W. de Klerk kept secret from the military high command plans to purge generals suspected of involvement in a secret campaign against opposition groups, a newspaper reported Sunday.

De Klerk shocked the military and the nation Saturday by announcing that military intelligence was waging a clandestine campaign against opposition groups. He fired 16 military personnel, including six generals, and put another seven soldiers on compulsory leave pending further investigation.

Senior military officials knew nothing about the dismissals until de Klerk’s announcement, the Sunday Times reported.

″It is clear that the entire military establishment was deliberately kept in the dark,″ the newspaper quoted an unidentified senior officer as saying.

Police also set up roadblocks Sunday at the border with the Transkei black homeland and patrolled white-owned farms along the Lesotho border after separate attacks killed one white and wounded five.

A conservative white leader threatened attacks on black militants if the government did not crack down on a recent surge in violence aimed at whites.

De Klerk said he would provide the names of disciplined military officers once all had been notified, and indicated their criminal activities and unauthorized political operations may have included killings.

The head of the Military Intelligence unit said to be in charge of the plot, Brig. Gen. Tolletjie Botha, was one of the dismissed officers, the Sunday Star and Rapport newspapers reported Sunday.

Also dismissed were Maj. Gen. Hennie Roux, the army chief of staff; Maj. Gen. Chris Thirion, deputy chief of staff of intelligence; and Brig. Gen. Ferdie van Wyk, director of army communications operations, Rapport said.

All are part of the army, considered the least progressive of South Africa’s military forces.

A military spokesman refused to comment Sunday on the newspaper reports or de Klerk’s disclosures.

De Klerk said Saturday some of the dismissed military members were likely working against the reform process he started three years ago. But he said there was no coup plot in the works.

″There is as yet no evidence pointing to anyone wanting to violently overthrow the government,″ he said.

African National Congress official Mac Maharaj concurred on Saturday, saying: ″We do not think that the situation requires the public and us to become alarmed.″

De Klerk’s disclosures, made at a news conference and based on information from an internal investigation by Lt. Gen. Pierre Steyn, confirmed longstanding suspicions by black opposition groups that some military leaders worked secretly against reforms to end apartheid.

South Africa’s military has a tradition of professionalism that makes it unlikely any coup attempt would emanate from within. Steyn is an air force general, and his role in the investigation shows some top officers support de Klerk and his attempts to end apartheid and share power with non-whites.

De Klerk appointed Steyn to investigate after the Goldstone Commission, a judicial panel investigating political violence, last month disclosed a covert military plot to discredit the ANC, the leading black group.

South African Broadcasting Corp. reported that police set up roadblocks at border posts with Transkei and warned motorists to avoid that black homeland.

Police said an unidentified man fired on a van full of whites traveling in Transkei on Saturday, wounding four members of the same family and the driver of another vehicle apparently hit by a stray bullet, police said.

The report said police were sent to farms along the frontier with Lesotho, a military state surrounded by South Africa. A 14-year-old girl died in a hand grenade and gunfire attack Saturday on a farmhouse, the report said.

The attack was the second on a house in the same area in recent weeks. No one was injured in the first attack.

Charl Hertzog, an official of the white, pro-apartheid Conservative Party said Sunday that white self-defense units would launch retribution raids against the suspected attackers in Lesotho unless the government took action.

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