Boeremag trial: Judge lambastes 'dishonest liars'

2013-10-28 22:31
One of the Boeremag accused. (File, AFP)

One of the Boeremag accused. (File, AFP)

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Pretoria - The judge in the Boeremag treason trial described some of the accused on Monday as dishonest liars who had not played open cards with the court.

On Tuesday, Judge Eben Jordaan will sentence the 20 men he convicted last year of high treason.

The decade-long trial has been one of the most expensive in South African history.

Legal Aid SA said it had spent just over R36m on the accused's legal costs to date.

Judgment on sentencing started exactly 10 years after the first witness took the stand in the trial in 2003.

The charge arises from a rightwing plot in the late 1990s and early 2000s to violently overthrow the African National Congress government and to chase all black, coloured and Indian people out of the country.

The first of the Boeremag members were arrested before others commenced a bombing spree, attacking among others the police air wing at the Grand Central Airport and blowing up railway lines, bridges and a Buddhist temple.

Members of the Boeremag's bomb squad - Herman van Rooyen, Rudi Gouws and brothers Johan, Kobus and Wilhelm Pretorius - were also convicted of culpable homicide and conspiring to murder former president Nelson Mandela.

Soweto mother Claudia Mokome was killed when the bomb squad blew up a railway line and a piece of steel landed on her shack.

The men also planted a bomb on a road Mandela was supposed to use on his way to open a rural school, but the plan was thwarted when he arrived by helicopter instead.

Jordaan described the personal circumstances of each accused in detail, stressing that their involvement in the case had caused financial ruin, the end of promising careers and also the end of marriages for many of them.

Two of the accused - Lets Pretorius and his son Johan - are medical doctors, several are academics and a number of them were officers in the defence force, who were fired after their convictions.

Farm attacks

All the accused, except Herman van Rooyen, are first offenders. They are all aged between 32 and 74.

Some of them cited political reasons and a fear of farm attacks as their reasons for involvement in the coup plot, but the majority steadfastly denied being aware of the plot or of ever committing any crimes.

Jordaan said Mike and Andre du Toit, who were in the first group arrested, had played a major role in planning the coup, which would have lead to massive bloodshed.

Neither of them had ever played open cards with the court, and had for years hidden behind lies.

There was also not a shred of evidence that either of them had shown any sign of remorse.

Members of the Boeremag had to swear allegiance to Tom Vorster, who took over as leader of the movement later on.

Vorster, at many meetings, made it clear that "traitors" would be shot. He suggested blowing up sport stadiums and did reconnaissance at targets for the massive car bombs planned by the Boeremag.

The judge said it was clear that Vorster had reconciled himself with the idea of massive bloodshed, but had for over a decade lied to the court and had even dragged religion into the fray.

Ignored warnings

Jordaan dismissed Lets Pretorius's evidence that he had not been aware of a coup plot and had not played a leadership role in the Boeremag.

He said Pretorius had ignored warnings that he was busy with unlawful activities and had bullied underlings to become part of the coup plan.

Jordaan rejected Pretorius's claims that others had misled him, and said that as an intelligent man he must surely have considered the consequences of his complicity in a coup plot before becoming involved.

He said the State had rightly argued that Pretorius had gone out of his way to involve others in the plot and had clearly shown no remorse about his conduct.

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