* Four arrested for suspected bomb conspiracy
* ANC says conference marquee targeted
* Fringe Afrikaner group admits members arrested
By Peroshni Govender
BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa, Dec 17 South African
police said on Monday they had foiled a plot by suspected
right-wing Afrikaner extremists targeting an African National
Congress (ANC) conference attended by President Jacob Zuma and
dozens of top government officials.
Four men aged between 40 and 50 were arrested on Sunday. A
police spokesman said there was evidence they were planning acts
around the country and not just at the ANC meeting in the
central city of Bloemfontein.
The vast majority of South Africa's whites accepted the
ANC's victory in the 1994 election that brought Nelson Mandela
to power and ended decades of white-minority rule. However, a
tiny handful continues to oppose the historic settlement.
"Their acts are widespread. We arrested them in different
provinces," spokesman Billy Jones told Reuters.
ANC spokesman Keith Khoza said preliminary information
suggested the men were planning to bomb the marquee where Zuma
and 4,500 delegates are holding a five-day meeting to chose the
ANC's leadership for the next five years.
"This would have been an act of terrorism that South Africa
can ill afford," Khoza said.
The Federal Freedom Party (FFP), a fringe group fighting for
self-determination for the white Afrikaner minority, confirmed
two of those arrested were FFP members but denied any role in
the suspected plot.
"We were not involved and do not associate ourselves with
their actions," FFP national secretary Francois Cloete told
In July, a former university lecturer was found guilty of
orchestrating a 2002 plot to overthrow the ANC and assassinate
Mandela - now 94 and receiving treatment in a Pretoria hospital
for a lung infection.
There was a heavy security presence at the Bloemfontein
meeting and the few vehicles being allowed onto the university
campus hosting the event were being searched by police and
ZUMA AND CYRIL
The conference is set to give Zuma a second mandate to lead
the party and - given the ANC's dominance at the ballot box -
another five-year term in 2014 as president of Africa's biggest
Zuma's nomination for the post of party leader was met by
wild cheers from delegates, in marked contrast to the muted
applause and occasional whistle that greeted his only
challenger, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Motlanthe withdrew from the race to become Zuma's number
two, virtually handing the position to former union leader Cyril
Ramaphosa, South Africa's second-richest black businessman who
is returning to politics after a decade absence.
Ramaphosa supporters were confident of victory when results
of the internal election are announced on Tuesday.
"The numbers are in our favour and we are going for it,"
said one backer said. "It's almost a done deal. Cyril is going
to be our next deputy president."
The ascension of Ramaphosa to a top ANC position is likely
to be seen as a pro-business move by a party still deeply rooted
in socialism, and may help assuage the fears of the ratings
agencies that have recently downgraded South Africa.
Zuma's administration has been criticised for failing to
overhaul a rigid labour market or fix a broken education system
that is eroding the long-term competitiveness of Africa's
There are also concerns the ANC might push for new taxes for
mining firms to help the government finance welfare spending for
the millions of blacks who have seen few economic gains since
the end of apartheid.
However, Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said the
government would not be "reckless" in implementing new taxes. He
also accused the ratings agencies of political meddling.
"There has actually been some level of unfairness because if
you look at what was coming out of the ratings agencies, it was
somewhat of an attempt to influence the outcome of the
conference," he told a business forum on the sidelines of the