The day Mandela almost died

The Boeremag treason trial heard on Tuesday of plans to blow up former president Nelson Mandela with a home-made bomb in 2002.

Self-confessed coup plotter Deon Crous testified in the Pretoria High Court that he and five of the Boeremag accused had decided to assassinate Mandela with a home-made bomb after reading in a newspaper that he would open a school near Tzaneen in Limpopo.

This was while Crous, Herman van Rooyen, Rudi Gouws and the Pretorius brothers Johan, Kobus and Wilhelm were on the run from police and using a so-called safe house in Pretoria as a base to plan a spate of bombings.

Crous said they decided to murder Mandela as it would have triggered “the night of the long knives”, where blacks would start killing whites in the country, creating chaos and paving the way for a violent coup.

Van Rooyen, Johan Pretorius and his brother Wilhelm had left immediately to do reconnaissance at the school that Mandela was to open, loading a home-made bomb into the back of their car.

The plan had initially been to plant a bomb at the school, but when this was found not to be feasible, they decided to plant the bomb at an excavation in the road leading to the school.

A bucket containing ammonium nitrate, diesel, a detonator and timing device was placed in the road and would have been set off when the group saw Mandela’s car coming down the road.

The plan was abandoned when Mandela arrived at the school by helicopter.

Crous said Wilhelm Pretorius had told them how he managed to ward off a group of women and police who were looking at the bucket containing the bomb mixture next to the road by telling them that it was a commando exercise.

He and Van Rooyen were both dressed in their commando unit uniforms at the time.

Crous testified how the six of them had done reconnaissance in Soweto, at a Buddhist temple in Bronkhorstspruit and the air wing at the police college in Pretoria with the view to identify places where they could plant bombs.

Their targets were plotted on Van Rooyen’s global positioning device.

Crous said when they arrived at the safe house for the first time, Van Rooyen had shown him the buckets, saying that they were going to “make sugar”, which would be their “pass to freedom”.

The trial continues.—Sapa

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