The plan was to target a venue where President Jacob Zuma, his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe and other senior ANC officials would be dining and shoot them “execution style”, as inspired by an Afrikaans prophesy.
Various firearms – some unlicensed – and grenades had been stockpiled for the plot.
These are some of the dramatic details the state alleged during the first court appearance in Bloemfontein on Tuesday morning of Mark Trollip, John Martin Keevy, Johan Hendrik Prinsloo and Hein Boonzaaier in the so-called “Die Slag van Mangaung” or “Battle of Mangaung” plot against the ANC and the government.
The four accused face a charge of high treason and two charges related to the alleged terrorism act, following their arrest on Sunday. The men were arrested in a joint operation with crime intelligence and the police’s counter-intelligence unit following a threat “directed” at the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung.
State prosecutor Advocate Shaun Abrahams outlined the plot, which the state claimed had been in the works over the year. Abrahams told the courtroom that the men had been “in several meetings across the country with right wing leaders known to the state”.
Abrahams detailed a meeting in Centurion in January where Prinsloo was present. Here the idea of a political party was mooted. Dubbed the “Boere Party”, it would aim for the self-governance and independence of the “Boere nation”.
But at a later meeting at a guesthouse in Gezina on July 23, attended by Prinsloo, Boonzaaier and others, Boonzaaier said that a political party would not be sufficient for their goal and plans were therefore hatched to sabotage the ANC’s conference.
The plot was allegedly planned to coincide with the anniversary of the Battle of Blood River on Sunday December 16, at noon when light fell on a particular monument that was not mentioned in court. Various prophetic writings and myths surrounding the “liberation” of the Afrikaans people were also mentioned in court in connection with the plot.
Boonzaaier and Prinsloo are both senior members of the newly established Federale Vryheids Party (FVP), the party’s national secretary Francois Cloete confirmed to the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday. Abrahams said in court Prinsloo also held senior positions in a number of other right wing organisations, including the Boere Beskermings Forum (BBF). Trollip is allegedly the “self-proclaimed” leader of a rightwing organisation dedicated to Afrikaner self-determination.
Keevy, who was said not to belong to a particular organisation, allegedly conducted a reconnaissance of the ANC conference venue with Trollip, where the alleged planned attack on Zuma and others was to take place.
According to the state, Keevy took photographs of the venue, which now forms part of the prosecution's evidence. They planned to launch mortars into the venue where ANC leaders were dining on Sunday, and shoot them “execution style”.
Their plans were thwarted when the men, aged between 40 and 50 years old, were arrested in three operations on Saturday in various parts of the country, and their premises were searched. Several items were seized by police including cellphones, laptops and various firearms - some unlicensed - as well as grenades, which had been stockpiled for the alleged plot.
The case was remanded to January 8 2013 for a formal bail application. The accused will remain in custody until then, while police said they expect more arrests will be made in connection with the thwarted attack.
The FVP was formed in October after it registered with the Independent Electoral Commission as a political party.
Cloete said that it was established to promote "self-determination of the Afrikaner/Boer people in a confederal political model".
NOTE: Sally Evans is an investigators for the M&G’s Centre for Investigative Journalism, AmaBhungane.