URGENT De Klerk Promises To End Covert Funding For Political Groups
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ President F.W. de Klerk today promised to end covert funding to all political groups and said secret government operations would be drastically cut.
Speaking one day after demoting his top security chiefs following a scandal over covert operations, de Klerk said the government was determined to deal fairly with all political parties.
But he also defended past covert operations, saying they had to be seen in the context of South Africa’s long history of conflict.
″Critics may say ... we should have changed faster,″ he conceded in a speech on national television.
″Every secret project is being looked at again,″ he added.
De Klerk, in response to a question, said he did not know about the secret funding of the conservative Inkatha Freedom Party until it was made public by the press July 19.
But he said he was aware of covert South African funding to conservative political parties in neighboring Namibia to try to sway elections in 1989.
And a government document released after de Klerk’s speech disclosed that South African security forces trained 150 Inkatha members in ″security and VIP protection.″ It said the operation was terminated in 1989.
Outlining specific proposals, de Klerk said all covert funding to political groups would end immediately or as soon as contractural obligations ran out.
De Klerk said all covert operations were being reviewed and would be sharply reduced. He also said an independent body would advise him on the fitness of future covert operations based on standards used by Western democracies.
The president said reports on covert government spending had been greatly exaggerated. He said of the government’s $132 million intelligence budget this year, just $14.9 million went for covert operations.
The rest of the money was used mainly to fund the National Intelligence Service, the country’s main intelligence agency, de Klerk said. He indicated all covert operations would end when international sanctions imposed to protest apartheid were removed.
De Klerk rejected charges by the African National Congress that the police and armed forces sided with Inkatha in violence that has cost some 6,000 lives in recent years. He said he would investigate any such charges, but was confident security forces were impartial.
″The fact that secret funds are used is not an excuse for crime,″ he said.
The president stunned South Africans late Monday by demoting Defense Minister Magnus Malan and Police Minister Adriaan Vlok following a scandal over covert funding for Inkatha.
Asked about the demotions, de Klerk told reporters after his televised speech that he retained confidence in Malan and Vlok or he would not have kept them in government. But he said he wanted to end controvery over allegations of security force involvement in political violence.
De Klerk, who accused black opposition groups of exploiting the political scandal for their own ends, appealed to all political parties to resume talks on a new constitution.
″The government has nothing to hide ... We do not have a hidden agenda,″ he said.
The ANC, the main black opposition group, said today Malan and Vlok should be dismissed from government. The ANC had demanded the ministers’ dismissal as a condition for resumption of talks on a new constitution.
″The removal of guilty parties from the Cabinet is what we demanded, and that does not mean shifting them around from pillar to post,″said ANC Deputy President Walter Sisulu.
Government funding of Inkatha, the ANC’s main rival, undermined de Klerk’s claim that the government was impartial and acting in the interests of all South Africans by ending apartheid.
ANC and other black leaders have repeatedly charged that the police and army were siding with Inkatha in black factional fighting.
In a statement released Monday, ANC leader Nelson Mandela said trust between the government and his organization ″has come crashing down.″
Malan, a retired general, had advocated tough military action against the ANC. Vlok took a similar stance as head of the police during the four-year national state of emergency that was lifted last year.
Malan takes over the water affairs and forestry portfolio and Vlok will head correctional services. To replace them, de Klerk named Hernus Kriel and Roelof Meyer, moderates committed to reform.
Kriel, who oversaw the abolition of apartheid laws as provincial affairs minister, becomes police minister. Meyer, who has been trying to set up black- white negotiations as deputy minister of constitutional development, takes over the defense portfolio.
The government gave Inkatha $87,000 in 1989 and 1990 to stage rallies, but said the money was part of a covert campaign to fight sanctions and was not aimed at improving the group’s political standing.
Inkatha and the government oppose sanctions imposed by foreign nations to protest apartheid. The ANC supports sanctions.
The ANC and Inkatha both oppose apartheid but differ on tactics and on their view of a future South Africa.