IN this tiny, impoverished tribal homeland of about 1 million people, a network of present and former agents of South Africa's security and intelligence services continues to wage a covert war to divide the support base of the African National Congress (ANC) and build an anti-ANC alliance.
Since President Frederik de Klerk legalized the ANC and committed the ruling National Party to a democratic settlement in February 1990, political negotiations have resulted in an agreement that the homelands created by Pretoria as part of its apartheid system should be reincorporated into South Africa.
But the military machine that dominated the government and directed a covert war under the former regime of President Pieter Botha has resisted the new political direction and continues an effort to destabilize and weaken the ANC. Within the military establishment, there is a division between those senior officers who are coming around to Mr. De Klerk's vision and those who are still firmly committed to the old order in which the ANC was seen as a deadly enemy.
One of the most striking aspects of Ciskei is that all key security officials are white officers with an intelligence or military background in the South African Defense Force (SADF) or the South African Police (SAP). This underscores the substantial control that Pretoria exerts in the homeland despite its insistence that Ciskei runs its own affairs.
In this respect, Ciskei contrasts with the pro-ANC Transkei, where most of the top security officials are black. Ciskei is one of four homelands that have sided broadly with the government in the negotiating process, while the other six have sided with the ANC.
The story of Ciskei and how the generals in Pretoria succeeded in winning over its military leader, Brig. Joshua "Oupa" Gqozo, provides evidence of how an informal "Third Force" has operated - and continues to operate - within and beyond the ranks of the SADF. Brigadier Gqozo, who led a popular coup d'tat in March 1990 to oust President Lennox Sebe, underwent a political transformation in the second half of 1990 from a populist leader to one whom the ANC sees as a bitter foe.
While this and other covert operations were in line with strategies adopted by Mr. Botha's quasi-military regime, they were out of step with De Klerk's commitment to liberalize politics and negotiate a democratic solution to the country's impasse.
THE existence of covert operations in Ciskei have long been suspected, but Monitor sources give the first coherent account of how this network operated and the nature of its links with Pretoria.
The Monitor investigation centered on extensive discussions with four former officers of the Ciskei Defense Force (CDF), a civil rights worker who has independently investigated their claims, and a current official of the ruling Ciskei Council of State.
The civil rights worker, who is an acknowledged authority on the region, spoke to the Monitor on the basis of anonymity as official investigations into covert activity are ongoing.
The Monitor also spoke to Gert Hugo, a former senior SADF military intelligence officer who has claimed that an informal network of security and intelligence operatives is undermining South Africa's transition to democracy and using dirty tricks to sabotage the ANC. From June 1990 to July 1991, Mr. Hugo served as Ciskei's chief of staff for intelligence after quitting his post as an intelligence officer in the SADF Eastern Province Command's Group 8.
The other three former CDF officers, who are black, are Zanomzi Peter Zantsi, a former colonel in the CDF who was Hugo's No. 2 in CDF Military Intelligence; Nelson Lalela Naka, a former colonel who was CDF chief of staff for operations; and Vuyo Livingstone Malane, a former warrant officer and former member of Intelligence Researchers
(IR), a secretive intelligence unit.
The Monitor's sources collectively claim that:
* Around mid-1990, a troika of former SADF military intelligence officers, who appeared in Bisho, the capital of Ciskei, used the cover of a secret intelligence unit known as Intelligence Researchers (IR), and later Ciskei Intelligence Services (CIS), to manipulate and direct Ciskei's military ruler, Brigadier Gqozo.
* The main purpose of gaining effective control of Gqozo was to turn him into a bitter foe of the ANC by convincing him that attacks from the ANC's military wing would be launched from pro-ANC Transkei.
* To achieve this goal, the troika went to the lengths of setting up a bogus coup and then led the leaders into an ambush in which they were killed. They also collaborated with a coup bid in Transkei to oust pro-ANC Gen. Bantu Holomisa.
* The troika was instrumental in setting up a "cultural movement" known as the African Democratic Movement (ADM), which was intended to create a platform to lobby against the ANC and to enhance Gqozo's popularity as a political leader.
* The troika smuggled a cache of heavy weaponry into Ciskei and then implicated senior CDF officers, who opposed the troika's hold on Gqozo, in an attempted coup after these officers discovered the cache.
Gqozo has denied that he was manipulated by white officers. Basie Oosthuysen, one of his white advisers who spoke to the Monitor, said the covert unit was a legitimate intelligence operation. (Interview, right.) But neither Gqozo nor his adviser would elaborate on the unit's activities or confirm who was involved in it.
Claims by Hugo and the three black officers were corroborated by official statements of a fifth officer, Lt. Ntantiso Kleinbooi, a Ciskei military intelligence officer who quit the CDF before Hugo and has given extensive interviews to the civil rights worker. Troika sets agenda
The four officers say the IR-CIS was run by three former SADF officers: Anton Nieuwoudt, Ted Brassell, and Clive Brink. Mr. Nieuwoudt, then a junior officer in the SADF, had instructed Gqozo in an Army training camp (21 Battalion at Lenz) about a decade earlier. The civil rights worker said that Nieuwoudt had had been an interrogator of South-West African People's Organization (Swapo) guerrillas in Namibia and ANC guerrillas in the Eastern Cape and had trained members of the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Pa rty at a Namibian military base to commit violence against ANC members.
"The group was structured with the three former SADF officers in the controlling positions, serving and former security policemen just below them, and the soldiers at the bottom of the hierachy," Hugo said.
The former CDF officers said the three white officers earned salaries about 45 percent higher than indicated by their former SADF ranks. They appeared to be a law unto themselves, the black officers said.
"Nieuwoudt and his colleagues gave Gqozo a persecution mania by fabricating plots against him and then going to extraordinary lengths to prove that they were true," Hugo said.
Former CDF Colonel Zantsi, who clashed frequently with the white officials over their manipulation of Gqozo, said Nieuwoudt and his colleagues harped on the ANC threat to Gqozo. Zantsi said he was first warned of Nieuwoudt's mission by Pretoria's then-military attache to Ciskei, Brig. Mias Muller, who now is Gqozo's chief political adviser in Ciskei's Council of State, the supreme governing body.
"Muller told me that Gqozo did not realize that some politicians in Pretoria were using him to further their strategy of treating the Ciskei as a testing ground against the ANC," Zantsi said.
According to Zantsi, Brigadier Muller said that he was concerned about Nieuwoudt's arrival because he was not "the right kind of person" for the Ciskei. Zantsi said Muller meant that Nieuwoudt was from the ultraconservative wing of the SADF that was determined to cling to the old order and more likely to resort to dirty tricks to achieve its goals. Undermining the ANC
"They wanted Gqozo to stop befriending himself with the ANC and toe their line to defeat the ANC," Zantsi said. "They peppered Gqozo with [external] threats against his life and convinced him that MK [Umkhonto We Sizwe], the ANC military wing, was being trained at the Transkei town of Port St. John to attack Ciskei.
"Their purpose was to alienate a section of the Xhosas from the ANC and allow them [South African authorities] to set up their own anti-ANC structures," he said.
The troika even staged a bogus coup in January 1991 led by former Ciskei Security Chief Charles Sebe and Onward Guzana, who were led by IR-CIS agents into an ambush and killed. The coup was planned by IR-CIS to convince Gqozo of the threat against him, according to Hugo and the three black officers.
The deaths of Sebe and Guzana, which caused wide confusion at the time, are currently the subject of an inquest in the Ciskei, and the officers, who are testifying, were reluctant to elaborate.
The three officers also implicated the IR-CIS in a failed coup bid in Transkei in November 1990 that led to the death of coup leader Craig Duli and others. They said the purpose of this coup, which was covertly supported by Gqozo and Pretoria, was to oust pro-ANC General Holomisa and create a viable opposition to the ANC in Transkei.
At a meeting before the coup, the officers said, Gqozo had become excited at the prospect of the coup's succeeding and he had thrown his hands into the air and said: "I will walk tall [if Duli succeeds]."
They added that shortly before the unsuccessful coup bid, Gqozo had returned from a meeting in Pretoria with new enthusiasm for the Pretoria regime. He had spoken about the prospects of an alliance with the ruling National Party [in South Africa] and told the three black officers he could not "side with the losers." He was referring to the ANC in Transkei if Holomisa was deposed, the officers said.
The three black officers said that they had made it clear to Gqozo that they could not support such a coup and warned of chaos if it succeeded.
The officers said they were themselves victims of the IR-CIS and were arrested and charged with treason after being framed by the IR-CIS unit in a coup attempt in February 1991. The charges were later withdrawn. The officers said that they had, in fact, exposed an IR-CIS arms cache of heavy weaponry including anti-aircraft guns, missile launchers, and rocket-propelled grenades, which was being secretly kept by the unit, ostensibly to launch attacks into Transkei.
Despite SADF denials that it was connected to IR-CIS, the unit was formally disbanded after a visit to Bisho by the SADF chief, Gen. A. J. (Kat) Liebenberg, in August last year. When the meeting was publicized, the South African authorities would say only that "confidential discussions on matters of mutual interest" were held. The Ciskei government confirmed the meeting but would give no details. New covert activity
Since the closure of the IR-CIS in August last year, Hugo claims, the same strategies have been followed under a new guise and with some of the old actors in new roles.
To substantiate this claim, he points to the formation of the African Democratic Movement (ADM) - an anti-ANC movement founded and directed by white intelligence operatives to play down Gqozo's reputation as an autocratic military ruler and build his credibility as a popular leader.
The civil rights worker said that ADM members were armed and trained by Pretoria and that hit squads had been at work.
The Monitor also established in an interview with Mr. Oosthuysen, a white Afrikaner who helped found and is now acting general secretary of the pro-Gqozo ADM, that he was on the payroll of IR-CIS for three months between running an SADF front company, Dynamic Teaching, and taking up a post as "political adviser" to Gqozo in August 1991.