South African Right Wing Grabs Political Spotlight
Terrorist plot and Hani trial demonstrate threat to peace prospects
JOHANNESBURG — THE political focus swings to the right today as the trial of three right-wingers charged in the assassination of black leader Chris Hani opens and police probe a right-wing plot to blow up a nuclear power plant.
On trial for Hani's murder are three right-wing whites, including two leading officials of the Conservative Party, Clive Derby-Lewis and his wife Gaye.
Janusz Walus, a Polish immigrant, is charged with shooting Hani four times at point-blank range outside his home on the morning of April 10.
The three face charges of conspiracy to commit murder and the illegal possession of arms and ammunition.
Mr. Derby-Lewis is charged with obtaining and preparing the murder weapon, while his wife is accused of establishing the whereabouts of Hani and eight other prominent South Africans also earmarked for assassination.
They included African National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela, Communist Party chairman Joe Slovo, Foreign Affairs Minister Roelof Botha, and Judge Richard Goldstone of the Goldstone Commission of Inquiry into violence.
The trial opens four days after police uncovered a plot to murder ANC Youth League leader Peter Mokaba, a key militant who caused a controversy with the chant ``Kill a Boer [Afrikaner], Kill a Farmer.''
Police confirmed Saturday that they were holding four senior officials of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) in connection with a terrorist plot that included missile attacks on the World Trade Center, the venue of multiparty talks, and a nuclear power plant near Cape Town.
The AWB falls under the Afrikaner Volksfront (AVF), the right-wing umbrella body whose leader, Gen. Constand Viljoen, has held secret talks with ANC leaders over the past four weeks.
At an AVF executive meeting last Wednesday, members of the Conservative Party closed ranks and forced General Viljoen to call off the talks on the pretext that both President Frederik de Klerk and Mr. Mandela had rejected the principle of Afrikaner self-determination in a separate territory.
But ANC officials have taken a conciliatory approach toward the right wing's rejection of talks and have urged right-wing leaders to continue negotiating.
Speaking from Washington Sept. 29, Mandela described Viljoen as a good man who was working to avert further violence.
Viljoen, who has emerged as a key figure on the political scene in the past six months, told a senior diplomat Friday that he was angry with Mr. De Klerk for saying one thing in bilateral meetings and another when he traveled abroad about the Afrikaner demand for a homeland.
The idea of an Afrikaner homeland, which was rejected by the multiparty negotiating forum in July, has been tabled in the secret talks, and AVF officials are working on the boundaries of a proposed region in which Afrikaners could run their own affairs.
The proposals are due to be fed into the multiparty negotiating forum in the coming weeks as negotiators finalize an interim constitution, the last major hurdle standing in the way of the country's first democratic ballot scheduled for April 27 next year.
ANC negotiators have acknowledged the principle of Afrikaner self-determination, but have raised doubts about how it could be created to ensure a white majority and to prevent discrimination against blacks.
A source close to the talks told the Monitor that Viljoen was committed to keeping the contact with the ANC alive in the hopes of winning concessions that he could sell to his restive constituency.
The admission by the police Friday that they have been holding four suspected right-wing terrorists since Sept. 11 has caused a stir in political and diplomatic circles. One of the four, Commandant-General Dirk Ackermann, is the leader of the AWB military wing and is known to be a right-hand man of the fiery AWB leader, Eugene Terre Blanche.
Police are also investigating a possible link between the four men and a murder plot, uncovered by police this week, against Mr. Mokaba, the ANC youth leader, who claimed this week that there had been an unsuccessful attempt on his life in his Johannesburg home.
Police are also investigating the possible involvement of the four AWB guerrillas in a plan to attack a remote South African Defense Force (SADF) base in the northern Cape to seize arms, ammunition, and military vehicles.
The Weekly Mail and Guardian, the South African weekly journal that first reported the arrest of the AWB military leader, also reported the presence of a retired SADF officer, Col. Jan Breytenbach, at a secret meeting east of Pretoria last week to mobilize former SADF members.
Right-wingers have warned that the establishment of the Transitional Executive Council, a multiracial commission that will give blacks a direct say in government for the first time, will amount to a declaration of war.