South Africa's troubled Prime Minister Pieter Botha says his government never denied knowledge of its Information Department's secret projects, designed to improve the image of the country's apartheid policy.
South Africa's troubled Prime Minister Pieter Botha says his government never denied knowledge of its Information Department's secret projects, designed to improve the image of the country's apartheid policy. Mr. Botha was replying to claims by the former Information Secretary, Dr. Eschel Rhoodie, that the Prime Minister personally initiated two of the secret projects. Dr. Rhoodie made his claims in a special BBC interview shown on Wednesday (21 March). Mr. Botha said what had been denied was that members of the present Cabinet knew of the backing of the "Citizen" newspaper with state funds. He said it has also been denied the Cabinet knew of any irregularities in secret project funds.
SYNOPSIS: The funding of the right-wing "Citizen" newspaper is at the heart of the South African political scandal.
The government's financial backing of the paper and alleged influence over its political content is just one of the secret projects unearthed in the scandal. Prime Minister Pleter Botha told parliament last December that a special committee evaluating the projects had identified 138 secret schemes, in which the bribing of journalists, overseas politicians and trade union leaders was commonplace. South Africa's major daily newspapers have played the major role in revealing new facts about the scandal. The government is now considering closer control over press freedom.
The headlines and billboards, even in the Citizen, have preoccupied the country for months.
Dr. Rhoodie's disclosures implicate both Prime Minister Botha and his predecessor John Vorster. Dr. Rhoodie alleged Mr. Botha personally initiated two secret projects, while Mr. Vorster had known of every major secret project.
Mr. Botha has promised to resign if it can be proved that any of his Cabinet knew of the secret schemes before they were revealed in a government inquiry. One Minister now under pressure is Senator Owen Horwood, Minister for Finance. Dr. Rhoodie produced a photostat letter which alleges Senator Horwood knew about, and approved, funds for secret projects. The public were asked about Dr. Rhoodie's information.
The government was defended by the former Minister of Information, Dr. Connie Mulder.