THE death in detention of a black man from Sebokeng township on July 9 could provide the first hard evidence of a link between political violence, extreme right-wing groups, and rogue elements in the South African security forces.
Victor Kheswa, long suspected by township residents and human-rights groups of masterminding civilian massacres in the area, was a member of the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the extreme right-wing World Preservatist Movement (WPM).
"I think this case could provide the key to how a third force has operated to provoke township violence and sabotage a negotiated political settlement," says a Western diplomat.
The so-called third force is believed to be made up of covert elements with support inside the defense forces.
The disclosure of Mr. Kheswa's ties could also weaken the case of the conservative Concerned South African Group (COSAG) at a crucial stage in negotiations for a transition to democracy. The two main components of COSAG, the IFP and the right-wing Conservative Party, indicated over the weekend that they will boycott negotiations until an interim constitution providing for strong regional autonomy is put on the table at multi-party talks next month.
Judge Richard Goldstone, who heads a standing commission into the causes of political violence, authorized a search of the home of neo-Fascist WPM leader Koos Vermeulen on July 16. Mr. Vermeulen, who was one of the first people called to identify Kheswa's body, confirmed that Kheswa was a WPM member, but later retracted his statement after questioning by police.
Kheswa, known widely in the so-called Vaal townships south of Johannesburg as the "Vaal Monster," died in a hospital several hours after he was arrested.
Three white policemen, apparently involved in interrogating Kheswa, were suspended shortly after his death. Kheswa had apparently agreed to cooperate with the police investigations.
Janus Waluz, the Polish immigrant who allegedly killed ANC leader Chris Hani on April 10, was found to be a WPM supporter. The WPM also has links with the Ku Klux Klan, the far-right National Front in Britain, and neo-Nazi groups in Eastern Europe.
"The fact that Vermeulen was among the first - if not the first - to identify Kheswa after his death in police custody puts beyond any doubt the fact that there was a link between them," said Wim Booyse, independent policy analyst and an authority on the white right wing.
The ANC and the IFP have alleged that the WPM has close links with the South African intelligence community. The IFP has denied that it has any links with the WPM and accuses government intelligence agents of trying to implicate the IFP in violence.
THE ANC, suspecting a massive police coverup, has demanded an independent inquiry - including international experts - to probe Kheswa's death and his involvement in township violence.
The police have launched an investigation into allegations that Kheswa might have been killed by police to prevent him from revealing a link between the security forces, extreme right-wing groups, and third-force activities.
But the Police Ministry later denied Kheswa's right-wing links, and a police spokesman, Brigadier Floris Mostert, insisted that he died suddenly of natural causes while in police custody.
A Monitor investigation published in May last year established that a third force driven by rogue elements within the security forces was actively provoking political violence to sabotage a negotiated transfer of power to the black majority.
Kheswa was arrested following police questioning of Henter Ndlovu - another suspect in recent township massacres. Kheswa and Ndlovu were residents of the notorious KwaMadala hostel in Sebokeng, which has been linked to a series of massacres and drive-by killings in Sebokeng and other townships.
Ndlovu, who appeared briefly in court last week, is being held in connection with the massacre of 19 township residents on April 18, and the massacre of 42 civilians in the neighboring township of Boipatong in June last year. Kheswa was also a suspect.
Kheswa, who has long been suspected by civil-rights lawyers of having links with police, was also suspected of having organized a January 1991 massacre at a funeral vigil in Sebokeng in which more than 30 people died and 50 were wounded, and in various other killings.
Some 400 people have died in massacres and drive-by killings in Sebokeng since the ANC was legalized in February 1990 - making it the most violent township in the Johannesburg complex.
Police over the weekend also announced the disbanding of a notorious police anti-crime unit operating in the Vaal region - known as the Yankee Squad - after scores of allegations of assault and torture were lodged against some of its members.