A wave of damage control engulfed South Africa last week as scandal rocked the government of President F. W. (Frederik) de Klerk. First, a senior secretary in the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party resigned, claiming sole responsibility for accepting a $100,000 secret donation from police in 1989 and 1990. At a news conference, M. Z. Khumalo insisted that Inkatha’s leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, was unaware of the donation—or of the more than $600,000 that police admitted that they gave to an Inkatha-allied trade union over the past four years. Then, Foreign Minister Roelof (Pik) Botha summoned foreign diplomats to Pretoria to assure them that police payoffs had ceased. Still, the scandal spread. South African media called it “Inkathagate” and, at week’s end, the crisis threatened to block critical black-white constitutional negotiations.
The issue at the heart of the scandal is whether the police not only funded Inkatha, but also actively joined members of the conservative group in fighting rival African National Congress activists. The clashes in the black townships have led to about 6,000 deaths in the past five years. The government denied charges of police complicity. But its credibility has clearly suffered. For years, the government had also fiercely denied ANC allegations that it was funding Inkatha. And it was only on July 19, when the Johannesburg Weekly Mail newspaper first published the contents of secret government documents detailing such payments, that Botha and Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok admitted to funding the
organization. But they claimed that the money was intended to support only Inkatha’s antisanctions activities.
Still, the ANC announced that it will not resume suspended negotiations with Pretoria on a new nonracial constitution until Vlok and Defence Minister Magnus Malan resign—and the government launches an inquiry into the scandal. De Klerk, who held two days of crisis talks with his cabinet, is scheduled to make a statement on the issue this week. If the scandal escalates, he may dismiss Vlok and Malan, both hard-liners who, observers say, oppose his peace efforts.
Meanwhile, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a leading anti-apartheid activist, criticized de Klerk’s delay in responding to the controversy. Said the cleric: “He does not seem to realize the seriousness of the crisis.” But de Klerk may be waiting to determine the effect of other damaging allegations. Democratic Party MP Kobus Jordaan last week claimed to have evidence that members of the security forces had supplied weapons and training to Inkatha activists involved in the township fighting. And a former security force sergeant, Felix Ndimene, alleged that members of a covert military group were responsible for last September’s massacre of 26 blacks aboard a commuter train. Inkathagate has clearly created a climate of suspicion that may fatally compromise de Klerk’s campaign to create a new, color-blind South Africa.
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