South Africa's hard-line former president P.W. Botha was on Tuesday directly implicated by his former police minister in the bombing of an anti-apartheid church office.
Adriaan Vlok, who served in Botha's Cabinet as police minister, told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he had ordered the bombing of the building after Botha had told him to make the office block unusable.Vlok is applying for amnesty from prosecution for the August 31, 1988 bombing of Khotso House, the downtown Johannesburg headquarters of the South African Council of Churches, which grouped together several churches opposed to apartheid. Nobody was killed in the explosion, but 21 people were injured.
Vlok is the only member of Botha's Cabinet to apply for amnesty for criminal acts, and this is the first time such a senior member of Botha's government has linked the apartheid strongman to an act of violence.
Botha, who ruled South Africa from 1978 until replaced by reformer F.W de Klerk in 1989, has consistently denied any wrongdoing while in power.
His trial for ignoring a subpoena to testify before the truth commission will resume next month, and if found guilty Botha faces a two-year prison term or a 20,000 rand ($3,200) fine.
Vlok told the commission, which has the power to grant amnesty from prosecution if it believes the applicant has told the full truth, that Botha had told him the building was no longer a place of peace.
He said the government had information that Khotso House was being used to shield insurgents and activists belonging to the then outlawed but now-ruling African National Congress (ANC).
"Mr. Botha gave the instruction that the current situation should not be allowed to continue," Vlok said.
Vlok said Botha had told him: "You people must make that building unusable. Deny them the further use of it. Whatever you do, you must make certain that no people are killed."
Vlok said Botha had given no specific instructions on how the building should be destroyed, but after the bombing Botha had congratulated him and the police.
He said his actions had been motivated by his strong belief that communism was evil and that he was protecting the country from communism.