Mandela death-plot racists jailed for 35 years
A group of white supremacists who plotted to assassinate Nelson Mandela and reinstate apartheid in South Africa by means of a violent coup have been sentenced to up to 35 years in prison.
The sentences follow a 10-year trial at Pretoria's High Court which saw a total of 21 members of the far-right Boeremag ('Afrikaner Force') found guilty of treason for a botched 2002 plot to overthrow the fledgling democracy.
Five members of the group who planted bombs in a mosque, railway stations and petrol stations in the black township of Soweto, one of which killed a woman in her home, were also found guilty of culpable homicide.
The same unit also plotted to kill Mr Mandela, the country's first black president who had by then left office but was still seen as a "peacemaker" by the group.
They planted a roadside bomb along a route he was due to travel to open a rural school, which was to be detonated by a tug on an attached fishing line.
Their plans were thwarted when the statesman, now 95 and convalescing from a lung infection at home in Johannesburg, travelled to his engagement by helicopter.
Had they succeeded, said sentencing judge Eben Jordaan, the country could have been "plunged into further chaos and bloodshed".
The Boeremag trial began in May 2003 amid tight security in South Africa's capital. Many defendants – some of them from the police and security forces – challenged the court's jurisdiction.
They claimed that they should be regarded as prisoners of war as they were soldiers engaged in a legitimate armed struggle for self-determination.
The five men who plotted to kill Mr Mandela received the maximum sentence of 35 years. Under the apartheid government, which backed capital punishment, they would have faced execution.
The group's ringleader, Mike Du Toit, a former university lecturer, was found with a blueprint for the coup on his computer.
It described a Boer "Utopia" in which there would be no murders, VAT or debts, ruled over by a new military government appointed without democratic elections.
The Boeremag plot, concocted around barbeques and at fast-food outlets, envisaged driving South Africa's black majority of about 40 million to Zimbabwe by lining roads heading north with food parcels.(© Daily Telegraph, London)