JOHANNESBURG, JULY 27 -- A former South African army major who ran a disinformation campaign against the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) during Namibia's 1989 independence election has made new allegations that the Pretoria government is using similar tactics here to attempt to undermine the African National Congress and its allies.

Nico Basson, a whistle-blower on covert activities of the South African military, charged at a news conference here Friday that President Frederik W. de Klerk and his cabinet had put together "a total strategy," modeled on the Namibian campaign, to discredit the ANC, the country's main anti-apartheid group. Their aim, he said, was to build an alternative moderate alliance "so they can eventually win elections in the future" non-racial government that constitutional negotiations are expected to create.

Basson is the latest of a growing number of disaffected South African military officers, many from covert and counter-insurgency units, to make allegations of past and present secret operations to subvert, assassinate and discredit the government's opponents. Basson, in fact, has established a watchdog organization, Soldiers of Peace, that is seeking to persuade other members of the defense establishment to come forward with testimony and documents to expose these alleged activities.

The recent avalanche of allegations has had the effect of forcing the government to admit to a wide variety of covert activities and, thus, throwing de Klerk onto the defensive, tarnishing his reputation as a sincere reformer and raising doubts about his methods and objectives.

Foreign Minister Roelof F. Botha disclosed Thursday that the government had spent "well over" $35 million to bolster seven parties opposing SWAPO in Namibia's independence election. SWAPO, an anti-South African party of former guerrillas, won the election but by a far narrower margin of victory than many had anticipated. Namibia gained its independence from South Africa in March 1990.

It is believed that Botha went public with the disclosure because the government suspected that the Weekly Mail and other publications were about to break the story based on information Basson had obtained.

Questions put to Basson at his news conference Friday illustrated just how complicated the cloak-and-dagger game of disclosures -- and possible disinformation -- has become as local and foreign journalists seek to authenticate allegations such as his. One of the worries is that some of the former police and army security operatives who "tell all" about their covert activities may be "plants." According to local press reports, the government is engaged in its own campaign to discredit detractors.

For example, Basson was asked about his sexual preferences and why he was operating from such a luxurious home in the northern suburb of Dunkeld West where the press conference was held. Other reporters wanted to know whether he was acting secretly on behalf of elements in the cabinet seeking to force out the "securocrats," namely Defense Minister Magnus Malan and Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok.

Basson, a media specialist, said he was assigned by army intelligence in early 1989 to map out and implement a media strategy against SWAPO. He said it was part of an overall covert plan code-named Operation Agree, whose objective was to help the moderate Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) win the election partly by discrediting SWAPO.

He held up a printout of Turnhalle's 1989 election campaign budget, which amounted to almost $25.6 million. Of that, he said, the South African government had provided $22.8 million, in addition to "massive logistical support."

The operation eventually failed, but Turnhalle made a surprisingly strong showing. SWAPO won only 57 percent of the vote, well under the two-thirds majority needed to give it a free hand to rewrite the constitution.

The government and military made an after-election assessment of Operation Agree and then drew up a "whole strategy about the new South Africa" to deal with the ANC and its allies here, Basson said. According to Basson, this was done even before de Klerk's February 1990 speech legalizing all anti-apartheid groups and offering to negotiate with them for a new non-racial constitution. Basson said this information came from high-ranking army officers.

Disclosures of secret government funding for the staunchly anti-ANC Inkatha Freedom Party of Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and for its affiliated labor union was only "a small part of the story," he added.

According to Basson, de Klerk's grand strategy for the "new South Africa" involves an attempt to put together an alliance including Inkatha, the Indian and mixed-raced Colored parties now participating in the white-dominated Parliament, and other anti-ANC political groups. Included would be parties in the homelands, the 10 black tribal areas set up under the apartheid system of racial separation and nominally independent of South African control.

De Klerk also has been courting the vote of the conservative African churches, to which millions of blacks belong, in a bid to draw off enough of the black vote from the ANC to get a majority for such an alliance.

Basson, 35, said he decided several months ago to go public and expose covert military security activities here and in Namibia after he reached a $45,000 out-of-court settlement with the army over back wages.

"The only reason why we're doing this is we want to clean up the government," Basson said, referring to his Soldiers of Peace watchdog group. "We don't want to topple F.W. {de Klerk}. I think we want to strengthen F.W. so he can clean up his cabinet. It's wrong to use secret funds to back the political agenda of a certain group."

Basson said he is not an ANC member but supports its call for an interim government to oversee a transitional period between constitutional negotiations and elections for a majority government.

"How can the government run the transitional phase when they are supplying massive funds and state resources for the political agenda of the {ruling} National Party and its allies?" he said.

Basson said he is in contact with 40 active members of the South African military who are feeding his organization with information and documents. "There's quite a big group in the Defense Force that's very disillusioned," he said.

He denied that he is part of an anti-military faction of the government but conceded that his allegations "fit the picture" of someone with an agenda of ousting the "securocrats" in the cabinet.

As if to demonstrate that he is not anti-military, Basson said he does not believe the allegations of a former Special Forces member, Mozambican-born Felix Ndimene, who told the pro-ANC New Nation newspaper last week that he had heard some of his fellow soldiers discussing their involvement in massacres carried out last year on commuter trains between Johannesburg and the black township of Soweto.

He said the soldier's allegations were "hearsay" and added, "I'm not supporting Ndimene on this" -- even though Basson's Soldiers of Peace organization has sent Ndimene out of the country for safekeeping.

Basson hedged his answers to questions about whether he thought secret army security operatives were directly involved in the township violence wracking South Africa, saying, "Maybe they are not directly involved but they create this violence, they stir it."

As for allegations he had made earlier that the army was supplying arms to Inkatha, Basson replied, "People told me they are supplying to Inkatha, but I don't have any direct proof of that."

Replies such as this have helped confuse the search for the truth here about the real extent of security force involvement in the violence and the government's covert activities on behalf of its potential allies and against the ANC.

Basson himself said in an earlier interview that he is treating with extreme caution the allegations of a former member of the army's now-defunct Civil Cooperation Bureau who had approached Basson with information about the secret agency's activities in Namibia and told him he was responsible for four murders.

Basson said he was not yet sure whether the man was a security "plant" sent to discredit him by providing information that would later prove to be false.