The African National Congress and other opposition groups Friday applauded a government plan to disband the dreaded police unit responsible for political surveillance.
However, the pro-apartheid opposition Conservative Party denounced the decision. Spokesman Moolman Mentz called it "naive" and said terrorist attacks will soar as a result.The law and order minister, Adriaan Vlok, announced late Thursday the Security Police would be merged April 1 with the main detective force, the Criminal Investigation Department.
Vlok said the Security Police was being scrapped to get police out of politics. He said the move would reinforce regular police and boost their ability to combat a major crime wave sweeping South Africa.
The Security Police was charged with suppressing political opposition. Critics claimed it killed or tortured anti-apartheid activists.
The minority-led white government has pledged to dismantle the last remnants of apartheid, the country's system of racial segregation. In February 1990, President F.W. de Klerk legalized opposition groups such as the ANC and began releasing political prisoners, including ANC leader Nelson Mandela.
The ANC, which waged a largely ineffective guerrilla war against the government for 29 years, suspended its armed struggle in August and has been holding talks with the government. The ANC is the country's main black opposition group.
In an editorial Friday, Business Day, a leading Johannesburg newspaper, said, "The Security Police are South Africa's version of the Soviet KGB, East Germany's vicious Stasi or any political police force in totalitarian countries."