Two life terms for ‘Crusaders’ leader who planned to overthrow government and ‘reclaim it for white people’

Harry Johannes Knoesen.

Harry Johannes Knoesen.

Published Sep 28, 2022


Durban - The leader of the National Christian Resistance Movement, a right-wing organisation that planned to overthrow the government and kill African people, has been sentenced to two life terms of imprisonment.

Harry Johannes Knoesen, 63, was convicted and sentenced this week in the Mpumalanga High Court.

Knoesen was convicted of a contravention of preparing and planning to carry out terrorist attacks, incitement to carry out a terrorist attack in South Africa, soliciting support/recruitment of persons to carry out terrorist attacks in South Africa and unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority, during the period of December 2018 and November 2019, Knoesen developed a deep-rooted hatred, for the racial democratic dispensation, established under the auspices of the Constitution and implemented by the South African government.

“He sought to justify his beliefs on religious grounds, claiming that God had ordained that he should re-claim South Africa for white people.

“These highly racial views were his motivation to decide to overthrow the government, and indiscriminately kill African people.

“To further this end, he planned to attack government institutions and more specifically police and military institutions. He also identified townships and informal settlements occupied by African persons as targets for attack,” said NPA provincial spokesperson Monica Nyuswa.

To further these objectives, Knoesen took over the National Christian Resistance Movement (NCRM), also known as the Crusaders (NCRM), and appointed himself as Commander-in-Chief, giving himself the rank of General.

“He explored the possibility of using a biological weapon, to infect and kill members of the African population.

“He also had discussions regarding arranging training in urban warfare. The police had however become aware of his activities, and on 28 November 2019, he was arrested.

“Documentation relevant to the planning of the attacks, and information relating to the members of the organisation and their cells were also found.

“Digital devices were also seized, including weapons and ammunition. The accused pleaded not guilty to the crimes and the State led evidence of various witnesses including the evidence of his social media administrator, who arranged the plenary meetings. This includes the evidence of audio clips and videos he made on social media, as well as the testimony of a digital forensic investigator,” Nyuswa said.

Knoesen’s application for leave to appeal against his sentence and conviction was also dismissed.

In addition to life, Knoesen also received an additional 21 years.

He was declared unfit to possess a firearm.

Two other accused in this matter Donald Abrahams, 57, and Erroll Abrahams, 52, pleaded guilty in December 2020 and are currently serving an eight year jail sentence.