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.
But, he said, the joint memorandum submitted by the Weekly Mail and other groups "does contain allegations concerning serious violence and intimidation committed recently by persons trained in camps set up by organizations which were formerly funded by the SADF," the judge said. The commission had therefore decided the allegations should be investigated, the judge said.
All major protagonists in the violence, including the government, ANC, and Inkatha signed the National Peace Accord last September. But violence has risen in Natal province with attacks on trains of black commuters. Scores of people have died in the past five weeks in Natal and townships near Johannesburg.
At the start of the Goldstone committee's proceedings in Cape Town yesterday a former Inkatha "political lecturer" told the committee that he knew of at least one person trained at a base in Namibia in 1986 who was also receiving a salary from an SADF front company.
Mbongeni Khumalo, who was also a national organizer of the Inkatha Youth Brigade, said 200 people trained at the base - then funded by the SADF - were still in the service of the KwaZulu Police or the KwaZulu government at the time.
Mbongeni Khumalo named the front company as Creed Consultants. He said that "young men with short hair" trained at the Hippo camp in the Caprivi Strip were referred to as "the boys from the project" in conversations between Chief Mangosuthu's personal assistant M. Z. Khumalo, and Guy Boardman of Creed Consultants in Pretoria. The violent 'Black Cats'
M. Z. Khumalo resigned in the wake of the Inkatha funding scandal last year but was later reinstated. Mbongeni Khumalo told the committee the trained men were paid $340 a month at a time when the KwaZulu government was unable to pay its own employees salaries.
Mbongeni Khumalo said that in August 1990 a group of 30 men, known as the "Black Cats," arrived in the KwaZulu capital Ulundi, becoming an embarrassment because of their robberies.
Mbongeni Khumalo had lectured them in politics, but their main interest appeared to be learning to use firearms. He said they were still being trained in December 1990 and January 1991. The Weekly Mail last week interviewed two masked members of the Cats who gave details of how they had provoked violence.