July 28, 2012 (TSR) – It took more than nine years for the state to achieve its first conviction in the case but it has finally received a verdict: guilty of treason. Leader of the White Supremacist “Boeremag” organisation, Mike du Toit and his brother, former policeman Andre du Toit, were convicted of treason by the High Court in Tshwane, South Africa on Thursday.
Judge Eben Jordaan said all the evidence presented by the State fit together like a puzzle.
The Boeremag — Afrikaans for “Boer Force”, is a reference to the descendants of the first Dutch colonisers. The men are said to be behind nine bomb blasts that shook the Johannesburg township of Soweto in October 2002 where dozens of people were injured and one person killed.
Du Toit, a former teacher and history lecturer at the Vista University with a master’s degree in philosophy, was one of the first of the 22 treason trial accused to be arrested in 2002. He was the first to be arrested and the most senior leader of the group of coup plotters in all but name.
On Thursday, Judge Eben Jordaan – in a judgment that took nearly two full days to deliver – said that Mike du Toit had authored a blueprint for revolution that was to evict black people from most of South Africa and was intended to kill anyone and everyone who got in its way.
This marks only the beginning of the end of the long-running trial.
Seventeen more accused remain in the dock in the North Gauteng High Court and the last may have to wait a month to hear his verdict – the unabbreviated summary of evidence and judgment runs across tens of thousands of pages. At least one other accused is unlikely to be well enough to appear in court to hear the verdict in his case.
Although Du Toit and his legal representatives declined to comment, he is expected to apply for leave to appeal.
Over the years evidence has painted Du Toit as a ruthless man, who either believed he had a destiny as a leader who would restore South Africa to white control or who cold-bloodedly played on the religious and mystical beliefs of others to create a private army.
That army, using nothing but their private weapons, stockpiles of diesel and a couple of hundred kilograms of explosives was then supposed to seize military bases and major broadcasters, assassinate key government leaders and drive black people across the northern borders and into the Eastern Cape. That would leave the country under the control of a military government, free of what the plotters considered the complications of democracy – most likely with Mike du Toit as its ruler.
Jordaan said the evidence showed Du Toit was the author of a “war plan”, known as Document 12, found on his computer after police raided his house in October 2001.
The plan entailed creating chaos in the country, taking over military bases and cities, chasing Blacks out of the country, and replacing the African National Congress-led government with White Afrikaner military rule.
Du Toit had often discussed creating a “trigger” for the coup and chasing Blacks into the sea.
Ideas for the “trigger” included blowing up the Vaal dam, shooting down a Boeing, creating a “World Trade Centre situation” and cutting off electricity to major cities.
A major part of their scheme involved an alleged plot to kill Nelson Mandela in 2002, one of the triggers they believed would spark an exodus of blacks out of South Africa and into neighbouring countries.
Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, acted as a unifying force after decades of white minority rule.
Jordaan on Wednesday – the first day of judgment – rejected the suggestion by the 22 accused that police informants, who were used as state witnesses, had acted as provocateurs.
He said the accused were not put off when they realised that there were informers in their ranks.
Some of them had in fact continued with the plan to overthrow the ANC government and had planted more bombs.
This was after the first few trialists had been arrested and while some were still on the run from the police.
Additional bombs planned for Pretoria and Johannesburg were prevented only when the police arrested the last three accused late in 2002.
The state’s allegation of an alleged coup conspiracy was not based only on the planning document known as “Document 12”, but on numerous other documents and the totality of the evidence.
Document 12 was found on the computer of the first person arrested and the inevitable deduction was that Du Toit was its author.
Jordaan found Du Toit had continued with his coup plan even after police raided his house and discovered Document 12.
He told witnesses he would not allow his plan, on which he had been working for seven years, to be derailed.
But the plot – which saw meetings with dozens of people all over the country and ham-fisted attempts to recruit security insiders (including a high-ranking military official who reported the approach almost immediately) was closely watched by intelligence agencies.
The Boeremag plot culminated in what would have been a comedy of errors in Soweto, were it not for the fact that one woman was killed in an explosion intended to start sowing the chaos and confusion that would give the group the cover for its coup.
State witness, Colonel Koos Holtzhausen, who managed to infiltrate the organisation, said Du Toit had assured him the organisation had “massive support” and that his plan was “100 percent workable”.
He told Holtzhausen they were recruiting members under the guise of farm security.
Another State witness, Willem Grobler, testified that Du Toit had been livid after the raid on his house and vowed to create the trigger preceding the coup within days.
He said Du Toit would call up 450 men from the Eastern Transvaal (Mpumalanga) to come to Tshwane and shoot Blacks indiscriminately to create chaos.
Du Toit told one witness he was definitely continuing with his plan and that so many “kaffirs would die that it would not even be funny”, Grobler said.
Grobler said he was so concerned about Du Toit’s plans that he tried to delay it by telling him about a meeting with a man who claimed he could manufacture a “weapon of mass destruction” in the form of gas which could kill hundreds of people.
He said Du Toit was very interested in this.
Several State witnesses, who were part of the organisation up to then, testified they became wary and withdrew from the plans because they realised they were busy breaking the law.
Jordaan accepted evidence that Du Toit had been present at a meeting at a strip club early in November 2001, during which a military radio, time switches and batteries were provided to a State witness to blow up power lines.
Du Toit said at that meeting he could get a missile to blow up a Boeing in the Cape and discussed testing explosives.
At a later meeting, Du Toit vowed revenge against the police who he claimed had planted software and child pornography on his computer.
Jordaan found that another accused, Tom Vorster, had taken over from Du Toit as leader of the Boeremag early in 2002.
Du Toit was present when Vorster handed out war booklets, appointed commanders and discussed a series of bomb explosions to act as a trigger for the coup.
Members had to swear allegiance to the Boeremag, were handed a bullet, and warned that traitors would be shot.
Vorster made it clear at that meeting that the Boeremag had declared war on the government.
Jordaan rejected the argument that using former alleged co-plotters as state witnesses, testifying in return for possible indemnity from prosecution, was unconstitutional.
He also rejected claims that two of the accused were “forced” to make admissions late in the trial.
Although the accused claimed to have believed they were involved in a legitimate war against a “racist regime”, Jordaan said they could not have believed that civilian targets, such as a mosque, were legitimate targets.
The 22 accused in the treason trial are accused of forming an organisation and recruiting others to overthrow the existing government, and of committing serious, violent crimes in the process.
The accused denied all the charges at the start of the trial. Many of them changed their versions and made certain admissions many years later.
A total of 194 witnesses testified for the state and many state witnesses spent months in the witness box.
Jordaan said he might take longer than the expected three weeks to deliver a summary of his judgment.
Du Toit has been in prison and awaiting trial for a decade. Arguments in mitigation and aggravation of sentencing are only expected to commence towards the end of the year.
Source: African Globe/Mail & Guardian/TSR