The broken dreams of a Boertopia
Joseph Mokone was born in 1994, a baby of South Africa's political transition. Barely old enough to be among the first of the born-free generation, he could look forward to a life in which he would not be legally denied many basic rights on the basis of his race.
The poverty of his family may have curtailed that freedom, but his mother, Claurina, had left her native Lesotho in search of better fortune in Gauteng, the land of opportunity. Perhaps she, and by extension Joseph, would have found it.
Joseph had not quite turned eight when, in the spring of 2002, a piece of metal torn from a nearby railway track hurtled through a flimsy wall of the family's Soweto shack and slammed into Claurina's head, killing her. Joseph and his sister Mary, who were sleeping on the same bed as their mother, emerged badly shaken but without serious injury.
Twenty Boeremag members convicted of high treason were given jail terms of between five and 30 years on October 29.
Joseph will be 44, a man ripe for a midlife crisis (if not already knee-deep in one) by the time the men responsible for his mother's death, the military core of the Boeremag terror group, emerge from prison. Mary, nearly a decade his senior, could be eyeing early retirement.
That is if military leader Tom Vorster and the four men in his "bomb squad" serve the full effective sentences handed down to them this week, fail to have those sentences reduced on appeal and if everyone involved survives the turmoil between now and 2038.
Prison as a convicted far-right militant will not likely be a kind environment. But by some predictions, the outside world will not be without its problems either.
There are futurologists who say 2038 will see a heavily populated South Africa parched by climate change; others see a planet in the throes of brutal nano-technological warfare.
There are utopians who forecast manned missions to Mars and utterly transformative technology too, and some who think utopia and dystopia could co-exist.
But it is vastly improbable that the South Africa into which Vorster and his cohort will emerge will be anything like the land they thought they were creating in 2002.
That the series of bombs planted by the small group killed only Claurina was thanks to a mixture of incompetence, poor planning and, from the point of view of the bombers, bad luck.
What they had intended, as the high court in Pretoria confirmed this week, was a racial bloodbath, and the exile of all nonwhites who survived.
The killing was merely to be a means to an end, according to documents and testimony that came before the court and interviews during the case. Boeremag leaders and their supporters had their own vision of the future, their 10 years on trial showed; a vision not clouded by details such as changing weather, technology or population patterns.
Without their intervention, the Boeremag believed, the near future would see black people rise up to kill their white former oppressors.
More recently, the narrative has shifted somewhat to encompass the murder of white farmers, which many in the far right consider a slow-motion white genocide, despite clear statistics to the contrary.
The Boeremag, heavily influenced by several members with military experience, decided on a pre-emptive strike, using their purported enemies' tactics against them.
Somewhere in a sequence of events that would include bombing Parliament and assassinating political leaders such as Nelson Mandela, the country would be plunged into darkness.
By this point – when and how is far from clear – military bases would have been raided or neutralised, military aircraft would have been grounded, and white people would have been warned to stockpile essentials and ammunition.
With those preconditions in place and control of the electrical grid seized, the power would be cut and a coup announcement made by way of radio stations. At which stage white people would rise up (possibly with help of the Indian and coloured communities, who would be betrayed later) and kill black people.
At some junctures, it seems, killing was the preference; a classic racial cleansing that would, in the words of one conspirator, "leave nobody behind to come back at us".
At other times, whether in the face of the logistical challenge of killing and disposing of the bodies of many millions of people or human compassion, the thinking moved towards forced exile: black people would be driven over South Africa's northern borders, others would be quarantined in the Eastern Cape.
At the heart of the entire project was an unshakable, never-examined belief in white supremacy. Black military and police commanders would panic and throw away their vast tactical and strategic advantages in the face of fearless Boer warriors.
Fighter planes would be shot down by hunting rifles because of the skill of the snipers and the lack thereof among the pilots. The black masses would mindlessly follow
breadcrumb trails of bags of maize meal left on major roads.
What would happen to the exiled black people was given little to no further thought. For the remaining white people, those not summarily executed as traitors, the Boeremag had plans that can be extrapolated 25 years into the future.
Leaders of the group envisaged a conservative, staunchly Christian, Boer republic under a simple form of military government.
White expatriates would flock back to the country, bringing their money and skills. The fewer than five million remaining people in the country would, through their sheer industriousness, make up for all the labour lost, restoring roads and other infrastructure until South Africa was a model of development.
According to one insider, a rapid redevelopment of nuclear weapons would keep at bay the more pesky members of the global community and black neighbour states.
So it is fair to say that, by 2038, the Boeremag group would have anticipated a lily-white, tightly organised country that is happy despite its need for constant vigilance in the face of external threat.
It is probably also safe to say that is not what the Boeremag ex-cons will find when they emerge, blinking, back into the light.
Treason, by the numbers
• 8 – The number of bombs detonated in Soweto in October 2002;
• 26 – Men arrested by November;
• 22 – Boeremag members whose treason trial began in 2003;
• 1 800 – Pages in the summary version of the state’s case;
• 2 – Accused who escaped and were recaptured during the trial;
• 6 – Boeremag members already free, by way of suspended sentences and served terms; and
• 25 – Years: the longest effective sentences handed down; on top of 10 years served while the trial was ongoing.