Faced with the 'total onslaught' by its enemies, in 1979, Apartheid South Africa established Vlakplaas (lit. "shallow farm"), a farm nestling in the hills outside Pretoria, as a secret operation under the arm of CI, a counter-terrorism division of the South African Police.
The first phase of operations, up until 1989, was aimed at fighting the enemy, the armed wings of the liberation movements. The second phase was fighting organized crime in which Vlakplaas itself seamlessly adopted the mantle of organized crime in the notorious downtown area of Johannesburg's Hillbrow. The final phase, the most destructive, was as the murky "Third Force" that destabilized the country in an orgy of violence in the run-up to its first democratic elections in 1994.
Operating within South Africa as well as beyond the country's borders, it will never been known how many victims can be attributed to the Vlakplaas agenda - with much of the execution taking place on the farm itself - but conservative figure of 1,000 murders and assassinations has been mooted.