Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

South Africa Begins Purge of Police

LAW and Order Minister Hernus Kriel announced yesterday that 13 police generals would retire due to a "rationalization drive" in the South African Police.

But a secret report to the Pretoria government by a top British criminologist last month suggests other reasons for the move. Peter Waddington, director of criminal justice studies at the University of Reading in England, recommended that President Frederik de Klerk "purge" the SAP high command as an act of "symbolic significance" to bring the force into line with a changing South Africa.

About these ads

"It would seem that De Klerk has acted swiftly on Waddington's advice," said a Western diplomat.

The Monitor has seen a copy of the four-page evaluation which brands the SAP as an "incompetent organization" unable to escape from its apartheid legacy.

Mr. De Klerk asked Dr. Waddington in June to investigate the police in response to the massacre of 42 black South Africans in Boipatong township on June 17. It was the first time that a South African leader invited a foreigner to pass judgment on police conduct and recommend changes.

"The top echelons of the SAP leave much to be desired," Waddington said in his assessment. "I have met many, much more impressive officers among their subordinates." Police generals should be sacrificed in a negotiated settlement with the African National Congress (ANC), Waddington said. "Perhaps those in senior positions have spent too long under the previous regime to be able to adjust to the extent that is necessary," he said.

Waddington said the SAP should be "brought out of the closet" and exposed to foreign police forces to see how they have dealt with basic policing problems. He said it was a hopeful sign that the SAP wanted to identify with police forces in Western democracies and wanted to be seen as subscribers to the "minimum force" theory.

Waddington suggested that the purge should be spread out during the negotiating process rather than get rid of them all as one "unilateral act."

Mr. Kriel announced yesterday that four new generals would be appointed and hinted that some could be black. He also announced the formation of an independent investigative body - a statutory board headed by a judge - to investigate serious crimes allegedly committed by the SAP.

About these ads

De Klerk is also under mounting political and diplomatic pressure to purge the top ranks of the South African Defense Force (SADF) of elements who are undermining the transition to democracy by continuing to fight a covert war against the government's political opponents.

He has agreed in principle to the proposal by UN Secretary-General Boutros-Boutros Ghali that Judge Richard Goldstone, who heads the government-appointed commission of inquiry into violence, should carry out a full probe into both the police and the defense force.

Western diplomats said that the issue of joint control of the security forces had become the dominant issue in renewed bilateral contacts between the government and the ANC.

SADF chief Gen. A. J. "Kat" Liebenberg reacted to allegations published by the Monitor on Monday in which a former military intelligence officer, Col. Gert Hugo, outlined a "Third Force" of former and present government agents who were sabotaging the transition to majority rule by stoking township violence and targeting anti-apartheid activists for assassination.

General Liebenberg, without addressing Mr. Hugo's claims about a covert war against government opponents, denied that the SADF had ever planned a coup to ensure that the reins of power did not slip from white hands, and he accused Hugo of being part of a broader plan to discredit the SADF.

Liebenberg also responded to calls for the suspension of Military Intelligence chief Gen. C.P. "Joffel" van der Westhuizen who is named as the sender of a military cable seeking authorization from Pretoria for the "permanent removal from society" of anti-apartheid activist Matthew Goniwe and two colleagues in 1985.

Liebenberg said the SADF was not prepared to take action against members of the defense force until they had been proven guilty. But he did not name General Van der Westhuizen.

The SADF yesterday confirmed that Van der Westhuizen had met ANC security chiefs for talks three weeks ago.

The Johannesburg Star reported, quoting unnamed top-level intelligence sources, that they had discussed the question of a "Third Force" promoting political violence. Van der Westhuizen had confirmed the existence of a "Third Force" but suggested to the ANC officials that they should join forces to fight the threat, the Star reported.

Hugo, a former senior military intelligence officer, said he stood by the claims he made in the Monitor in their entirety.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.