New bomb blast links to AWb
Stefaans BrUmmer investigates the suspects behind the Worcester and Rustenburg blasts
The Boere Aanvalstroepe (Bat), which claimed responsibility for the Worcester and Rustenburg bomb attacks, appears to link directly to the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging.
AWB leader Eugene Terre’Blanche this week told the Mail & Guardian in an interview that Bat consisted of members of his organisation, but that the orders had not been his.
While Terre’Blanche denied he knew which members were responsible, police have taken an interest in the sequence of events that led to Bat claiming responsibility for the Worcester attack.
A Johannesburg-based foreign correspondent, who asked not to be named, this week confirmed he had left his phone number with an AWB official at the organisation’s head office hours before receiving a call from a man with a heavy Afrikaans accent. The man identified himself as “John” and claimed to represent “a new organisation” with an important announcement to make. Shortly after the correspondent gave “John” a number for the South African Press Agency, the Bat statement was faxed to that agency.
The bombing campaign in the Western Cape and North-West has come as something of a lifeline for the AWB and Terre’blanche - but if police suspicions prove to be correct, the lifeline may well turn into a noose.
Terre’blanche’s “admission” may have been a play for the political centre stage - he said only he and President Nelson Mandela, together, could avert the “oncoming revolution”.
Cynics may dismiss it as posturing by a has-been leader of a spent force who has played the card of looming war once too often already; pulling it from his sleeve again in the hope that the Madiba magic will rub off on him too and revive his flagging fortunes.
But if Bat links directly to the AWB headquarters, it could spell trouble for the organisation.
The three men police have said could “help in the investigation” into the Worcester Christmas Eve bombing are AWB members. Christiaan Harmse, one of the two men arrested shortly after last weekend’s bombings in the Rustenburg area, is also a member of the AWB.
While police have been careful not to link convicted AWB bombers Jan Bastiaan de Wet, Abraham “Koper” Myburgh and Nicolaas “Cliffie” Barnard directly to the Worcester bombing, the reason for their unstated suspicion is clear - the trio appear to have been seen in the Worcester area late last year. In addition, the Worcester bomb, like the Rustenburg bombs, bore the “fingerprint” of earlier AWB bombs: a metal pipe filled with similar explosives.
De Wet, who escaped from prison last March with Barnard and Myburgh before they were convicted in absentia for their part in the 1994 election bombing campaign that killed 20, was rearrested this week on a Randfontein plot belonging to AWB “general” Japie Oelofse. For now, the only new charges against De Wet relate to his escape and the possession of a stolen vehicle.
Terre’blanche, in his vintage mixture of bombast and oratory poetry, this week told the M&G in Ventersdorp that the government “walking over the aspirations” of Boers and Zulus would lead to war, and that only he and Mandela could prevent it, should Mandela be willing to meet him and “make a kind of agreement”.
Chief among Terre’blanche’s demands is that rightwingers in prison for “political” offences be released immediately; the extension of the amnesty cut-off date, which will benefit mainly rightwingers, not being enough. “[Mandela] is the president, he must just say, ‘I’ll send the soldiers home.’... It will take years for people to go to a so-called human rights court. In the meantime people are dying again, and they will die in their hundreds of thousands. Stop the reason for the bombings.”
Terre’blanche claimed the AWB still had 60 000 to 70 000 listed members. “I gave no instruction to retaliate, but you must realise that 90% of AWB people are trained soldiers. If they make only 500 pipe bombs, they will blow this country to hell in one night.”
He said he and the AWB “general staff” had lost control of individual members, who were responsible for the bombings.
While Captain Piet Reynecke, investigating officer into the Rustenburg blasts, this week said no evidence had been uncovered to connect the Worcester and Rustenburg incidents, and top intelligence officer Mo Shaik slighted the threat by talking of “Brandy and Coke Ossewa” militant right- wing cells, some information points towards an at least loosely co-ordinated campaign within the orbit of the AWB and related right-wing structures. This includes:
* Investigators’ suspicion has been raised by the “coincidence” of the same lawyers acting for De Wet and Rustenburg bombing suspects Pierre Jacobs and Harmse. The advocate already retained by their lawyers, Louisa van der Walt, also appeared for the defence during trial of the 1994 election bombers. The source of their legal funding this week remained a mystery.
* Intelligence and police investigators have information on foreign right-wing support for local groups, which could boost the local capacity for terror considerably.
* The Worcester and Rustenburg incidents have not been the only ones in the last six months. North-west Premier Popo Molefe has talked of six arrests in six weeks, including that of white miners attempting to steal commercial explosives from mines.
Two rightwingers, one of them AWB member Fred Joubert, were arrested in the North- West last October in possession of explosives, fuses and other equipment. Rustenburg magistrates sentenced Joubert to R2 000 or one year’s imprisonment in Rustenburg this week, and his co-accused, Gert van der Westhuizen, to a similarly light sentence late last year, after the prosecution failed to prove they had intended to use the explosives for terror.
A formerly whites-only Ventersdorp primary school, now renamed Kgololosego, was damaged in a pipe bomb explosion in July after a Communist Party march. The investigation is being handled by investigators from the South African Police Service Internal Security division, who confirmed this week that a Ventersdorp AWB member has been implicated, but said there was no direct evidence against him.
* The M&G this week learnt of an interest shown by intelligence officials in an alleged “bomb factory” near Ventersdorp, while it also received unconfirmed information about a farm in the area containing a large cache of military equipment.
But as South Africa grapples with the realisation that terror is not a tactic only of the past, it appears the country’s security agencies are also grappling to form a coherent picture of the extent of the threat. One well-placed security official this week spoke of far more sinister right-wing groups that have yet to flex their muscles, but acknowledged: “The truth is, we really don’t have a clue.”