Four suspected extremists in S. Africa face treason charge
Four suspected right-wing extremists allegedly plotting to kill South African President Jacob Zuma appeared in court on treason and terrorism charges Tuesday.
Mark Trollip, Johan Prinsloo, Martin Keevy and Hein Boonzaaier were arrested on Sunday in different parts of the country, the SAPA news agency reported.
State prosecutors alleged the group of white men aged between 40 and 50 had been planning acts of sabotage since the beginning of the year.
They were plotting to kill Zuma, his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe, government ministers and senior officials of the ruling African National Congress at the party’s elective conference, state prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said.
Authorities say Prinsloo is the leader and Boonzaaier a senior member of the newly-founded Federal Freedom Party (FFP), which campaigns for a separate state for white minority Afrikaners.
The FFP however through national secretary Francois Cloete distanced itself from the charges.
“The party wasn’t aware if anything was being planned. We had no idea. We don’t condone terrorist attacks,” he told AFP.
The next court appearance in the case was set for January 8, and meanwhile the suspects will remain in custody.
There has been confusion over the group’s exact targets, with police backtracking on earlier verions.
On Monday police emphatically denied links between the group and a terrorist plot against the ANC leadership meeting.
But on Tuesday the version changed.
“The current status of the investigation and evidence collected confirms that their activities were also directed to the ANC conference,” Free State province police spokesman Billy Jones said.
“More arrests are imminent,” he added.
Security has been extremely tight at the ANC conference, with razor wire thrown up around a perimeter guarded by armed police.
Only a few pre-screened vehicles are allowed to enter what is normally the campus of the University of the Free State, where around 4,000 ANC delegates are gathered — including the country’s president, ministers and parliamentarians.
In August 20 people were convicted of high treason in connection with a plot to kill Nelson Mandela and drive blacks out of the country.
The “Boeremag” organisation had planned a right-wing coup in 2002 to overthrow the post-apartheid government.
Dozens of people were injured and one person killed in blasts that shook the Johannesburg township of Soweto in October 2002.