PRESIDENT Frederik de Klerk's response to his first major political crisis has left his image impaired and raised more questions than it has answered about his past role in secret funding of political parties and his intentions to curb violence.Mr. De Klerk sought to restore his government's shattered credibility over the secret funding of the Inkatha Freedom Party at an internationally televised news conference in Pretoria on Tuesday. "I would be surprised if his performance lets him off the hook," said Khehla Shubane of the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg. Western diplomats and opposition politicians felt De Klerk had succeeded in keeping interracial dialogue alive but had failed to show that he was committed to rooting out state elements provoking violence. The African National Congress reacted coolly to De Klerk's speech and warned that the central issue of state involvement in violence had not been addressed. "His response evades some very serious issues raised by the exposure of the slush funds and allegations of involvement in violence," said Pallo Jordan, ANC head of Information and Publicity. De Klerk announced measures aimed at tightening financial controls on the funding of secret projects and gave assurances that all financing of political parties had been halted subject to certain "contractual obligations." But when asked if he could give an assurance that no further funds had gone to Inkatha he appeared uncertain. "Not that I know of ... not as far has we have been able to ascertain," he said. De Klerk insisted he had not known about the funding to Inkatha until it had appeared in the press two weeks ago and that he had not been required by the procedures to know. "This was a less confident face of the president," a Western diplomat said. Earlier, Finance Minister Barend du Plessis said at a news conference that it was only in the event of irregularities in funding procedures that De Klerk would be told of specific projects like the financing of Inkatha meetings. Mr. Du Plessis also denied he knew about the funding of two Inkatha rallies in March 1990. He said special secret projects had already been cut back to 40 percent of their level two years ago, and this would be reduced to 25 percent next year. He said despite the $1.4 billion spent on special defense projects and the $130 million allocated by Foreign Affairs Department's special fund, only $15 million had been allocated for special secret projects during the current financial year. De Klerk conceded he would like to have moved faster to curtail secret projects but that the security threat and hostility toward South Africa made it impossible. He announced the appointment of a private-sector committee to evaluate secret projects, determine whether they were in the national interest, and to recommend ways of establishing independent financial controls. Liberal Democratic Party legislator Jacobus Jordaan said this is a "flawed" move. "He should rather have brought the issue of secret funding under parliamentary control. Big business is already perceived as being in the pocket of government." De Klerk again denied the security forces were involved in provoking violence and pledged that a special Commission of Inquiry into Violence would soon be appointed. He said that those with concrete allegations should approach the commission. "But there is already enough evidence of security force involvement in violence on the table for a thorough investigation to start," said Mr. Shubane. The proposed commission on violence is flawed, Jordaan said, because it lacks the powers to investigate the security forces. "I know of people in the security forces who would like to speak out but are afraid of losing their jobs." But Jordaan said the most important aspect of De Klerk's response was his "softer tone" on the question of negotiating "transitional arrangements" for joint decisionmaking during the transition to a new constitution. The most significant part of De Klerk's damage limitation appears to have been the Cabinet reshuffle which brought the military under civilian control for the first time in more than a decade and placed key reformers and negotiators in sensitive portfolios. "Roelf Meyer [the new defense minister] is the one man who can take on the generals and win," said Jakki Cilliers, an independent security consultant who was formerly an officer in the South African Defense Force. "The top-level military management will breathe a sigh of relief," he said. "But there will be problems at the lower levels where there are many members of the right-wing Conservative Party."