July 26, 2012 / 6:09 PM / 5 years ago

South African "Boeremag" mastermind guilty of high treason

Mike du Toit, one of the 22 white right-wingers accused of plotting to overthrow the black-led government, walks in chains after appearing at Pretoria High Court, May 26, 2003.Stringer

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The mastermind of a "Boer Army" white supremacist plot to assassinate Nelson Mandela and drive blacks out of South Africa was found guilty of high treason on Thursday after a trial that lasted almost ten years.

Former university lecturer Mike du Toit was the first member of the "Boeremag", a rag-tag militia of apartheid loyalists, to be found guilty in connection with a botched 2002 coup attempt in Africa's biggest economy which aimed to overthrow the ruling African National Congress.

He will be sentenced at a later date, and may face life in jail. Verdicts on 21 other Boeremag members are expected over the next few weeks.

Under du Toit's plan, concocted around barbecues and in fast-food outlets, the Boeremag would force South Africa's black majority - roughly 40 million people - over the border into Zimbabwe with food parcels, while its 1.2 million Indians would be put on boats back to the subcontinent.

Witnesses testified that the group also planned to assassinate Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president in 1994 and acted as a unifying force after decades of white-minority rule.

The Boeremag also intended to shoot whites who opposed their vision of a racially pure nation.

Despite persistent racial tensions, groups such as the Boeremag and the Afrikaner Resistance Movement of murdered far-right leader Eugene Terre'blanche have little support among South Africa's five million whites.

"They are smaller than even a fringe element," said political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi. "There is no evidence that they had significant support."

Editing by Louise Ireland

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