The five-day conference to determine the next leaders of South Africa’s ruling ANC was targeted by a group of white extremists who were arrested yesterday by South African police, who allege the four men, members of a radical Afrikaner organization, were plotting to explode a bomb at the conference.
The men, ranging in age from 40 to 50, were arrested in four different cities as police said they also had plans to carry out other murderous acts in the country.
“Their acts are widespread. We arrested them in different provinces,” police spokesman Billy Jones told Reuters.
According to ANC spokesman Keith Khoza, there were indications that the four men were planning to bomb the marquee where Zuma and 4,500 ANC delegates are holding the five-day meeting.
“This would have been an act of terrorism that South Africa can ill afford,” Khoza said.
The purpose of the conference is to chose the ANC’s leadership for the next five years. Most observers expect the conference to conclude with President Jacob Zuma still the head of the party, which would virtually guarantee his reelection to the presidency in 2014. Zuma promised when he became party leader in 2007 that he would serve just one term, but he is reneging on that promise. He is being challenged by the enigmatic Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Though there were pockets of violence, South Africa’s transition to black majority rule was remarkably peaceful. But there remains a small minority of whites who are still resistant to the change.
The Federal Freedom Party (FFP), which campaigns for the self-determination of South Africa’s white Afrikaner minority, confirmed that two of those arrested were its members.
However, it denied any role in the alleged plot.
“We were not involved and do not associate ourselves with their actions,” FFP national secretary Francois Cloete told Reuters.
Just this past In July, a South African court convicted former academic Mike du Toit, the leader of the Boeremag (Afrikaner power) group, of treason for masterminding a spate of bombings in 2002 and also for plotting to assassinate South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela.