Members of South Africa's security forces orchestrated massacres against black civilians even in the last days of apartheid rule, a report states.
Bloodshed in the run-up to elections put South Africa on a knife's edge
The Steyn report examined violence in the early 1990s in the run-up to South Africa's first multi-racial election.
It was written in 1992, but details have only just been declassified.
It has long been suspected that elements of the apartheid regime helped stoke tension between black communities to undermine black-majority rule.
The violence included attacks on commuters on South Africa's rail network and on labourers single-sex hostels in townships around Johannesburg and Durban.
The instability continued during the run-up to the first democratic election in 1994, in which Nelson Mandela was elected president, prompting fears that the country could descend into civil war.
At the time the massacres were blamed on ethnic and party-political rivalry between the Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) and the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party.
The Steyn report says that various military and paramilitary units, working with the state railway company Spoornet, co-ordinated and often executed many of the rush-hour train killings.
Mandela succeeded De Klerk as president
An investigation into the alleged "third force" behind such attacks was ordered by South Africa's last white President FW De Klerk, and written by a former defence forces chief of staff, Pierre Steyn.
The report is understood to have listed those in the military and other institutions allegedly involved.
After it was presented to Mr De Klerk, many of the top figures in the security services were fired or forced into retirement.
Parts of the report have now been declassified.
Other findings include:
- That the apartheid army stored weapons in Portugal to quell uprisings in South Africa
- That the military maintained secret arms caches in South Africa and neighbouring states
- That apartheid army officers gave orders to left-wing Pan Africanist Congress operatives to murder ANC members
- That some senior apartheid army officers planned a right-wing coup to stop the ANC coming to power
Critics of the report, particularly from the apartheid military and intelligence services, say the allegations have never been proved.
But the current police commissioner, Jackie Selebi, has promised to scrutinise the report and, if necessary, to look into bringing the perpetrators to justice.