THE outcome of the battle raging between President F W de Klerk and his police generals following the "third force" revelations last week will determine whether South Africa plunges into war or emerges after next month's elections as a peaceful, stable democracy.
Dirk Coetzee, a former police captain and self-confessed state assassin, said yesterday that the future of the country depended on Mr de Klerk's resolve to arrest the senior police officers implicated with the Inkatha Freedom Party in a four-year terror conspiracy that has led to the deaths of thousands.
"De Klerk has always feared the police generals, that's why he's been led by the nose by them," Mr Coetzee said. "He's known they can destabilise the whole democratic process. That's why he hasn't acted against them before. But he knows that they are a monster on the loose, that the security police set-up is a huge mafia. If he'd cracked the mafia four years ago so many lives could have been saved. Now he can't delay the crunch any longer. He must hit them hard or the killings will just go on and on and we'll have Bosnia on the horizon. Break them and we'll have peace."
Mr Coetzee knows "the mafia" well. He served in a police hit-squad during the Eighties alongside Eugene de Kock, the colonel identified by Judge Richard Goldstone in his report last week as the individual arming, training and leading the Inkatha murder machine.
Mr Coetzee revealed all about his unit, C1 (now renamed C10) in November 1989 and then fled into exile. He lived in London for most of the time after fleeing and it was while he was living there that Colonel de Kock organised a plot to assassinate him, as disclosed in the Independent in July 1992. Scotland Yard provided him with round-the-clock protection for nearly two years.
He returned to South Africa in July last year and has been working for the intelligence service of the African National Congress. He gathered information on the state's terror networks by reactivating links with his old partners in crime. Judge Goldstone's revelations were an endorsement of everything Mr Coetzee has been alleging.
"I flew into Johannesburg on Sunday 4 July last year without anyone - not the ANC, not Scotland Yard - knowing about it. I was isolated and lonely in London and above all desperate because I knew that I had the information to stop the killings. I had to come back to do my bit.
"One thing I can do now is talk to the international team of investigators coming out to look at Goldstone's findings. The one thing they must understand is that they're dealing with a mafia. A big police mafia working with a junior partner, the smaller Inkatha mafia. Just look! Themba Khoza, the top Inkatha man in the Transvaal, working for De Kock on a police informer's wages!
"They're like a close-knit family, the senior officers in the security police - they don't call it the security police any more but it's still there, tapping ANC phones, files on ANC people still open. They go to each other's weddings, baptisms, birthdays. They know all each other's sins. And I'm …