The affordable education loan option
Counsel for several of the Boeremag members convicted of treason argued on Monday that their clients were not dangerous criminals.
They contended that life imprisonment for them would be shockingly inappropriate.
The State has asked the court to sentence eight of the 20 accused in the country's first post-apartheid treason trial to life imprisonment, and 11 to between five to 15 years in jail.
The State has not asked for the imprisonment of Fritz Naude, who is in a nursing home after a series of strokes.
The charges result from a right wing coup plot to violently overthrow the African National Congress-led government.
A Soweto mother was killed, a plot to murder former president Nelson Mandela nearly carried out, and damage of millions of rands caused in a series of explosions forming part of the coup plan.
Paul Kruger, for Pieter van Deventer and Gerhardus “Oom Vis” Visagie, argued that the State had a “witch hunt mentality”, evident in the “draconian” sentences it sought.
“The State wants the court to punish the accused for the potential results of their deeds,” he said.
Kruger said if the State was correct, someone caught driving at 200km/h should be punished for potentially killing someone.
“This cannot happen in a civilised legal system. An accused should be punished for what he already did,” he said.
He argued that rehabilitation ought to be possible without the person becoming a supporter of the government of the day, or going on a “foot-washing expedition”.
He was apparently referring to apartheid-era police minister Adriaan Vlok washing the feet of Rev Frank Chikane, former head of the SA Council of Churches, who survived an attempt on his life in the 1980s, in August 2006.
Kruger said the State's argument that the Boeremag members could have used political avenues to realise their aim of self-determination was not true, as the ANC government had turned a deaf ear to repeated calls for a “Volkstaat” (a Boer state).
He said it was clear the elderly Visagie, a retired top civil servant turned farmer, had never been a criminal, but could simply not live with the change the country.
“As an elderly man who's had several heart operations he's been through a living hell for the last 10 years of his life. Direct imprisonment could lead to his death,” Kruger added.
Louisa van der Walt, for Andre du Toit, argued that the State did not have rehabilitation in mind, only retribution and prevention. She said the State's argument that thousands of people would have been driven out of the country if the Boeremag's plans had worked out was “ridiculous”.
Lawyer Piet Pistorius argued that the State's argument on sentencing made no sense. It sought, for example, life imprisonment for Lets Pretorius, a dedicated medical doctor who served the community and saved lives, while asking for only 10 years imprisonment for another accused who played a far greater role.
The trial continues.