A South African pastor has been convicted of plotting to overthrow the government. In addition to his plans to invoke and national insurrection, the clergyman devised a scheme of genocide, hoping to kill thousands of Black people.
On Monday, June 6, Rev. Harry Johannes Knoesen, who serves as the head of the National Christian Resistance Movement, was found guilty by the Middelburg High Court sitting in the Middleburg Magistrate’s court of five charges related to conspiring to commit treason and take over the government.
The courts noted he used his platform as a religious leader to recruit and incite others to commit violent attacks, The Associated Press reports.
The official charge for the 64-year-old pastor was a contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorism and Related Matters Act (POCDATARA).
Prosecutors say one of the acts his right-wing organization, also called the “Crusaders,” explored implementing to take over the country was a biological weapon to infect and kill Black people. Officials successfully argued, Knoesen’s group planned to poison the water reservoirs that were accessed by and supplied to Black communities.
The court also found the preacher, who represented himself, guilty of unlawful possession of firearms, after weapons and ammunition were found in the place in Middelburg, a small town in the eastern Mpumalanga province, where he was staying when officers arrested him.
News 24 stated Knoesen was one of five other individuals suspected of planning a national insurrection. Their alleged motivation was to replace the secular government with members of the Christian organization. To make their impact they planned implementations targeting national key points, malls, and informal settlements on Nov. 28, 2019.
Prosecutors alleged that Knoesen’s mission was motivated by his “highly racial views” and a desire to “reclaim South Africa for white people.”
It is alleged he would use social media to instigate racial tension between white and Black citizens in South Africa. He even admitted to sharing “recipes” on Facebook to manufacture explosives with his followers, the Middelburg Observer reported.
“To further this end, he planned to attack government institutions and more specifically police and military institutions,” Monica Nyuswa, a spokeswoman for the National Prosecuting Authority.
Police spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said about the Crusaders’ terrorist threat, “This objective would be achieved by carrying out attacks on military and police installations as well as on informal settlements occupied by African persons.”
“We are satisfied with the judgment,” The National Head for the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya said. “It once again shows that excellent intelligence gathering and dedicated investigation prevented a bloodbath in the country. If the planned attack was not prevented and disrupted, it would have led to a racial war in South Africa.”
Knoesen’s sentencing has been postponed to Friday, June 10. However, his co-defendants Donald Abrahams, 57, and Erroll Abrahams, 52, both pled guilty in December 2020, have already been sentenced to 15 years for their participation in the crimes. Since their sentencing, seven years of their punishment have been suspended.
The brothers also were hit with five-year sentences for financing terrorism, unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition, and unlawful possession of more than 200 cartridges.
The colonel said, “Effectively each accused will serve eight years in prison. All other sentences will run concurrent with the sentence on preparing and planning to carry out terrorist attacks.”
Authorities will keep the preacher in custody until his sentencing proceedings on Friday, according to the international publication IOL News.
Mogale states, “He will present the sentencing reports as he is representing himself.”