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  • Written by  Independent Online
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De Klerk was at Caprivi Trainees meeting'

This week De Klerk adamantly denied he had condoned or supported human rights abuses during the apartheid era. But according to investigator Howard Varney, De Klerk sat on the secret State Security Council (SSC) meeting in 1986 that considered the formation of an "offensive paramilitary force" for Inkatha - a secret force of 206 men who would gain notoriety as the "Caprivi Trainees". The TRC later found the trainees responsible for gross violations of human rights, including killing and attempted killing, between 1987 and 1994. '

This week De Klerk adamantly denied he had condoned or supported human rights abuses during the apartheid era. But according to investigator Howard Varney, De Klerk sat on the secret State Security Council (SSC) meeting in 1986 that considered the formation of an "offensive paramilitary force" for Inkatha - a secret force of 206 men who would gain notoriety as the "Caprivi Trainees".

The TRC later found the trainees responsible for gross violations of human rights, including killing and attempted killing, between 1987 and 1994. '

Two days ago, former president FW de Klerk tearfully told a media conference that he was owed a fair deal by South Africa for his role in ending apartheid.

His press conference was his first personal appearance since the National Prosecuting Authority's decision last week to charge Adriaan Vlok, De Klerk's minister of law and order, with attempted murder for his 1989 plot to kill the ANC's Reverend Frank Chikane.

Vlok, former police commissioner General Johann van der Merwe and three other senior apartheid police officers are in negotiations to strike a plea bargain with the NPA, sparking speculation that they might give information on other senior apartheid politicians and officers in the apartheid security forces.

This week De Klerk adamantly denied he had condoned or supported human rights abuses during the apartheid era.

But according to investigator Howard Varney, De Klerk sat on the secret State Security Council (SSC) meeting in 1986 that considered the formation of an "offensive paramilitary force" for Inkatha - a secret force of 206 men who would gain notoriety as the "Caprivi Trainees".

The TRC later found the trainees responsible for gross violations of human rights, including killing and attempted killing, between 1987 and 1994.

De Klerk has often argued that, as the then minister of national education and chairperson of the Ministers' Council in parliament, he was not part of the inner circle of "securocrats" around former president PW Botha.

Speaking to the Saturday Star on Friday, Varney said he had reported on De Klerk's presence at the SSC meeting in a special report on political violence in KwaZulu Natal for then safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi in the late 1990s, which was later passed on to the TRC. Details of the report have never been made public.

Botha apparently chaired the SSC meeting at Tuynhuys on December 20 1985 at which a request from Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi for a para-military force was debated.

Botha's defence minister, Magnus Malan, and 10 other cabinet ministers, including De Klerk, were present, as was Dave Steward, now De Klerk's spokesperson, but then deputy director-general of the state's Bureau of Information.

The SSC established a "head committee" consisting of, among others Vlok, National Intelligence Service head Dr Niel Barnard and Military Intelligence General Tienie Groenewald.

Varney said a sub-committee was established that recommended the establishment of "an offensive paramilitary element" for Inkatha which had already been conducting "unprofessional" para-military operations on its own.

The head committee apparently presented the recommendations to the next SSC meeting at Tuynhuys on February 3 1986 at which De Klerk, Steward, Malan and Vlok were also present. According to Varney's report, the SSC deferred a decision on the formation of the paramilitary unit to "the highest political level" - presumably Botha, who personally okayed Operation Marion.

"Although the SSC members deferred the decision," Varney wrote, "it is apparent that the body supported the initiative. The minutes do not indicate any opposition or dissent, or any endeavour to stop the operation. Nobody present at that meeting has to date distanced themselves from the decisions made on February 3 1986."

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