Vorster convicted of treason

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Copy of boeremag trial INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS One of the alleged leaders of the Boeremag, Tom Vorster, heading for the holding cells. Photo: Masi Losi

Pretoria - Boeremag leader Tom Vorster on Monday become the tenth accused to be convicted of treason.

Judge Eben Jordaan found that Vorster, who owned a security company, had played a leading role in planning a right-wing coup.

Vorster took over as leader of the organisation when the author of the original war plan, Mike du Toit, went on the run from the police early in 2002.

Vorster had taken part in reconnaissance missions to identify targets to be blown up during the planned coup. He also presided when numerous new members swore an oath of allegiance to the Boeremag and its cause, making it clear that traitors would be shot, and handed out ranks to members.

The judge rejected Vorster's evidence that he and others had gathered at a farm near Warmbaths in September 2002 as an “exercise” in self-defence.

The court accepted evidence that a group of men, armed to the teeth, had travelled towards Alexandra, Johannesburg, on September 13, 2002.

In the preceding days, ammunition and weapons were counted and loaded onto vehicles, cars were hired, and time mechanisms prepared for car bombs. Pipe, petrol, and cylinder bombs were prepared for their campaign of terror.

The plan had been to gather at a warehouse in Alexandra, where the bombs would have been put into rented cars and driven to various targets in the coup's first phase.

By then, Vorster had put his plans to blow up Parliament on the back burner. He however instructed one of his trustees to plant a bomb at the OR Tambo Airport, which the man refused to do.

Vorster's Corsa bakkie led the convoy and he proclaimed he would blow up the first target because he “wanted to be the first to look the enemy in the eye”.

He also told the group there was no turning back as “blue letters” containing a declaration of war had already been posted and call-up instructions had been issued to members of the citizen force.

Both Vorster and his second-in-command, Dirk Hanekom, had signed the “blue letters” declaring war on the government.

From there, the group planned to attack the defence force bases at Potchefstroom and Lohatlha, to get weapons and military equipment for the coup. According to one witness, Vorster said he wanted to fire cannons over Potchefstroom after the military base had been taken over “to make people a bit angry”.

The plan was abandoned after Vorster told the others they had been betrayed in the Free State and that the police knew about their plan.

Jordaan said if the convoy had not been stopped, the damage and loss of life in the country could have taken on chaotic proportions.

The weapons and bombs were later hidden, but a truck loaded with ammunition had to be abandoned near Lichtenburg, where the police found it.

Half the group had wanted to stop the operation, but some had wanted to carry on.

According to witnesses, one of the accused, Wilhelm Pretorius, was so upset about abandoning the operation that he burst into tears several times.

Jordaan found Vorster had continued with his coup plan and had joined a group in the Lowveld to plan further acts of terror while he was on the run from the police.

Judgment continues. - Sapa

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