After over a decade, members of the extremist group Boeremag, Afrikaans for “white farmer force” have been sentenced for their plot to assassinate former South African president Nelson Mandela and violently overthrow the African National Congress.
Mandela served 27 years in prison for his outspoken fight against apartheid, the white-minority led government that was in power since 1948 in South Africa. In 1994, Mandela engaged in talks to help end apartheid and was elected the first black president of South Africa president of the ANC. For his years of sacrifice, and gaining freedom for all black South Africans, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Twenty members of the group aged 32-74 were convicted last year for charges ranging from treason to culpable homicide and conspiring to commit murder. Sentences were handed down Tuesday by Judge Eben Jordaan in Pretoria. Due to the length of the trial, those who got the 35 year sentence will serve 25 more, and one other member of Boeremag was given 20 years, with 10 remaining to serve.
Two of the defendants died during the trial and another was sentenced to 12 years on a plea agreement. The sentences range from five to 35 years, and after all this time, nine of those convicted will be sent home on Wednesday.
“It’s not really freedom, “ clarifies national Prosecuting Authority spokesman Medupe Simasiku. “…They will serve their sentences at home.” Simasiku added that they were pleased with the conclusion of the trial and hopes it will “set a major precedent. “It’s our first major case (involving) terrorism and treason.”
The conspirators took responsibility for a series of bombings that killed one woman, injured dozens more and damaged property in Soweto, Mandela’s hometown, in October 2002. Georgina Alexander, a politics and government researcher at the South African Institute of Race Relations adds that although the case took over ten years to close in court it “sends a clear message that violence against the State [sic] will not be tolerated.”
Leader of the group, Mike du Toit and four other members of their bomb squad were sentenced to 35 years for their part in planting a landmine along a road Mandela was schedule to take to open a school in northern Limpopo in 2002. At the last minute, the trip was taken by helicopter, which foiled the plot that surely would have seen Mandela killed and the country thrown into disarray. Lead investigator in the case, Tollie Vreugdenburg, said the plot “almost succeeded. It was extremely close.”
Boeremag’s main objectives were to kill Mandela, restore power to white South Africans and drive blacks from the country. To do this, they planned to sow chaos with bombings, then take over military bases to install military rule in order to remove all non-whites from South Africa.
During the trial security had to be tightened up after two defendants escaped during a recess. After months on the run, they were found hiding on farm and arrested. The same two defendants escaped from the courtroom again with three others, but authorities caught up to them shortly thereafter.
All twenty defendants have been convicted of treason but only five were convicted of murder and attempting to assassinate Mandela. The charges stem from activities in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Now that the trial has ended, South Africa can move forward and continue to establish themselves as a 21st century country with equal rights for all its citizens.
By: Brandi Tasby
South African White Extremists