Was the South African government behind the attempted coup in Seychelles last year?
The question was asked immediately following the event and has resurfaced again in light of allegations by Col. Mike Hoare, the leader of the band of mercenaries that attempted the Seychelles takeover.
In testimony in a South African court, Mr. Hoare--who is on trial with 42 other mercenaries for hijacking an airliner to escape from the Seychelles--has said Pretoria was aware of the planned coup. In fact, he said, the South African Defense Force supplied weapons to the mercenaries.
In light of Mr. Hoare's allegations, the opposition Progressive Federal Party May 4 asked for an immediate debate in Parliament on the Seychelles affair. The request was denied by the speaker of the house because the matter is before the courts.
Immediately following the coup attempt in November 1981, Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha said his government had neither initiated nor approved the venture. His office had no comment on the recent allegations.
Representatives from Air India, the airline whose plane was hijacked from the Seychelles to Durban, South Africa, were not allowed to come to South Africa to testify. But a court commission was permitted to hear evidence from Air India in the Seychelles.
Mr. Hoare's testimony also shed light on the aim of the coup attempt. He said the plan was to reinstate former President James Mancham and that the plan was first discussed in 1977 when a former Seychellois minister contacted him in South Africa about overthrowing the present government of France Albert Rene.
Mr. Hoare claimed he made initial contact with the South African government through Martin Dolinchek, an officer of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) here.
Mr. Dolinchek was caught during the coup bid and, along with six others, is scheduled to go on trial in the Seychelles for treason in June. He has admitted being an INS officer.
According to Mr. Hoare, South Africa's Cabinet declined any assistance when it was first approached with the plan. But a second approach, he said, succeeded. Mr. Hoare is reported as testifying that the Cabinet ''. . . had given their approval in principle. . . .''
The mercenaries were reportedly paid as much as $10,000 apiece, but Mr. Hoare claimed ideology played a large part in his attraction to the affair. In court he quoted Thomas Jefferson, saying that when a government became destructive people have the right to replace it. In this case, he offered his services to that end.
The coup attempt was foiled at the Seychelles airport when a customs official discovered an AK-47 rifle. A shoot-out with local security forces resulted, sending the mercenaries scurrying onto the Air India plane.