Johannesburg - The Hawks were forced to make a rapid arrest this week after they received information that the leader of a right-wing Christian organisation was about to launch a terror campaign targeting shopping malls and informal settlements.
On Thursday, as South Africans across the country prepared for Black Friday, the Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation’s Crimes Against The State (CATS) team and National Crime Intelligence raided two residences belonging to the leader of the National Christian Resistance Movement (NCRM) Harry Johannes Knoesen.
One of the residences, they suspect, contained a bomb factory.
The 60-year-old was arrested at his house in Middelburg, Mpumalanga. He was charged for terrorism related-activities in contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorism and Related Activities Act. He was also charged with the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.
On the same day, the Hawks also raided Knoesen’s farm in the Eastern Cape. There they found chemicals, electronic devices, documents and an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.
“We are trying to work out what chemicals are being used. In fact the crime scene has not yet been processed,” said Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.
Hawk investigators had apparently been investigating Knoesen for the past two years, but had to rush to arrest him after they received a tip-off that he was about to launch an attack that would target national key points, shopping malls and informal settlements.
Some of these national key points were army bases. “These attacks were to be directed towards black people,” Malaudzi added.
He could not reveal when the alleged attack was supposed to happen.
According to the Middelburg Observer newspaper, who were present when Knoesen made his court appearance, it emerged that the leader of the NCRM, who are also known as the Crusaders, had called on his members on social media to gather their weapons and shoot black people.
The court further heard that he told white South Africans who support his movement to collect unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
He had asked a member to secure him AK47s, handguns, ammunition and RPG rocket propelled grenades.
As the Hawks were closing in on Knoesen, police also went to arrest another person, Riana Heymans. But they believe she was tipped-off before they arrived at her workplace. The Hawks believe she is now on the run.
“This lady is very critical to our investigation. But she doesn’t stay in one place, she moves around,” said Mulaudzi.
Her Facebook account revealed that she lives in Alberton and is an estate agent.
Knoesen, a self confessed racist, has over the years called for a war against black South Africans.
In April in a video, Knoesen, sporting a military beret, revealed the ex-pastor calling on white people to strike first and start a war as this is the only way “white people can save themselves”.
On a Facebook post, Knoesen said that when he takes back the land, he would give all white South Africans “a free piece of land large enough to build and live on”.
Mulaudzi could not reveal how large Knoesen’s following is.
The Crusaders’ website only revealed the organisation’s emblem, with the motto: “Yield to none”.
Knoesen is due to appear in the Middelburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday, where he will apply for legal representation.