South African Commission Probes Political Violence

Article excerpt

AN independent judicial committee probing the causes of political violence heard testimony yesterday that appeared to link the South African Defense Force and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party to the fomenting of township violence.

A former Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) member told the committee that black men, given special military training, later carried out attacks on African National Congress (ANC) members using equipment provided by the South African Defense Force, or SADF.

The damaging allegations follow a funding scandal last July when the government was forced by press reports to admit its police force had secretly funded Inkatha rallies. President Frederik de Klerk insisted that he was not aware of the Inkatha funding and vowed that funding of the ANC's rival would end.

But the disclosures appeared to confirm critics' suspicions that the government had either closed its eyes to security force involvement or was afraid of confronting renegade SADF elements.

If allegations of SADF involvement in township violence are found to be true, it could seriously undermine the government's position at the interracial negotiations forum - Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). It may also further weaken the claim of IFP leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi that he should be accorded status as a national leader on a par with President De Klerk and ANC President Nelson Mandela.

The investigative committee is chaired by Judge Richard Goldstone, who heads the Goldstone Commission into Political Violence and Intimidation. It was set up by Parliament in October to investigate political violence that has killed about 6,000 people since 1989.

Judge Goldstone, a respected judge who enjoys wide confidence, on Tuesday appointed a committee to verify reports in the liberal newspaper, the Weekly Mail, that appear to provide evidence of a violence-fomenting "third force" with links to the SADF. Decision to investigate

The SADF has denied responsibility for furthering township violence but has welcomed the inquiry to clear its name. Defense Minister Roelf Meyer has conceded that the SADF's reputation has been damaged by the press reports. The allegations are part of a joint memorandum submitted to the commission by the Weekly Mail, the ANC and several allied organizations, the Media Defense Trust, and Lawyers for Human Rights.

After studying the memorandum at a commission hearing Tuesday, Goldstone announced he had found no evidence of current or recent funding by the SADF of front organizations involved in violence. …