/ 14 February 2007

Court hears details of alleged E Guinea coup plot

Details of how the alleged coup in Equatorial Guinea was to be staged were revealed for the first time in the Pretoria Regional Court on Wednesday.

Equatorial Guinea’s President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, was to be lured to the airport with the promise of new 4X4 vehicles and then overpowered and flown out of the country.

This was the testimony of state witness Crause Steyl in the trial of eight men accused of contravening South Africa’s Foreign Military Assistance Act.

Steyl told the court that Nick du Toit — one of the alleged planners of the coup, now serving time in Equatorial Guinea for his part in the plot — was to lure Obiang, whom he had befriended, to the airport to take delivery of a 4X4 that Du Toit was supposedly to give him.

”The plan was that there would be armed men on the plane between the vehicles, backed by the force from South Africa,” Crause told the court.

Obiang was to be overpowered and flown out of the country. Exiled opposition politician Severo Moto was to be flown in from Spain.

Steyl — who turned state witness after earlier pleading guilty under a plea bargain to involvement in a coup attempt — was to fly Moto from the Canary Islands to Spain, where they would wait before flying him to Equatorial Guinea.

The original plan was that the coup was to take place in January 2004. One aircraft was to arrive from South Africa carrying South African ”security people”, and another from Uganda with the vehicles and weapons.

Crause said the original plan was to obtain weapons from Salim Saleh, half brother of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.

The trial was postponed to Thursday before Steyl could say why the alleged coup planners did not stick with their original plan.

The eight men before court — Raymond Stanley Archer, Victor Dracula, Louis du Preez, Errol Harris, Mazanga Kashama, Neves Tomas Matias, Simon Morris Witherspoon and Hendrik Jacobus Hamman — have pleaded not guilty to a charge of contravening the Foreign Military Assistance Act.

They were among a group arrested in March 2004 when they landed at Harare International Airport, allegedly to refuel and pick up militarye quipment on their way to join other suspected mercenaries arrested in Equatorial Guinea at about the same time. — Sapa