Kobus Pretorius

Pretoria - Boeremag master bomb maker Kobus Pretorius never thought he could injure or kill people with his bombs, the High Court in Pretoria heard on Wednesday.

This claim came from Pretorius himself in response to a question by Judge Eben Jordaan.

Jordaan said a bomb was something that caused massive damage and asked how it was possible for Pretorius to think no one could be injured.

Pretorius answered that their targets were not among civilians and were removed from buildings and people.

He therefore never foresaw that anyone could be killed or injured, he said.

Jordaan asked Pretorius what he thought when he heard a woman (Soweto mother Claudia Mokone) had been killed in one of the bomb blasts.

“I said it was the 'blind sjambok'. It was an act of God because she must have committed sins, and that's why God had punished her.

“That's the way I thought at the time,” he said.

Pretorius admitted that even Mokone's death did not bring him and the other bomb squad members to the realisation that their deeds were wrong.

He said it was possible that they may have laughed after hearing on the radio that the bombs had exploded.

“It was the first time I realised that the bombs actually worked. I also did not realise how powerful they were,” he said.

“The excitement was not about the woman's death but about the bomb that went off.”

Jordaan said they had realised the railway lines would be damaged and wanted to know if Pretorius did not think anyone would be injured if a passenger train derailed.

He replied that he “had heard” there were sensors on the railway line which would have stopped the trains.

According to Pretorius he had signed a statement forming part of his application to be declared a prisoner of war as “Kommandant” (Commander) Pretorius on legal advice, even though he felt “uncomfortable” about it.

He claimed he already had a change of heart by then, but had gone along because it was a legal strategy that could have seen him gaining his freedom.

“From the first day in jail I did not like it and would have grabbed at anything to get out of jail.

“It is logical for anyone who has been in jail.

“If I could start the whole trial over today I would probably have reached a plea bargain agreement with the state immediately, which would have been the best course for me,” he said.

“Through all the hell that I went through I have thankfully now reached a point where I realised what I did was wrong,” he said.

Prosecutor Pieter Luyt put it to Pretorius that he trimmed his sails to the wind when it suited him.

Luyt said Pretorius' declarations of remorse and apologies were the “death throes” of his realisation that he was in big trouble.

Pretorius said his pubic apology was the result of conversations with (black) warders at the prison.

He had asked their forgiveness and then realised that he could also publicly apologise to the people he had harmed, so that they could deal with their own pain.

Dr Elsabe Swanepoel, an educational and counselling psychologist, testified that Pretorius' relationship with officials at prison had changed a lot over the past 18 months.

Because they were the only people he could talk to, he discussed his problems and experiences with “the clan” (his family) with them and developed a trusting relationship and friendship with some of them.

“He learnt a lot about black people and feels comfortable with them,” she said.

Swanepoel was of the opinion that Pretorius was a very impressionable person, who was easily influenced and persuaded by others.

She said he could still be dependent on the acceptance of others, but her impression was that he had developed his ability for critical thinking and now had the courage to assert his own beliefs against those of his family.

The trial will continue on Monday next week. - Sapa