July 26, 2012 / 2:34 PM / 7 years ago

South African "Boeremag" mastermind guilty of 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. REUTERS/Stringer

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The mastermind of a 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 started almost a decade ago.

The verdict on former university lecturer Mike du Toit was the first member of the “Boeremag”, or “Boer Army”, a rag-tag militia of apartheid loyalists, in connection with a botched 2002 coup attempt in Africa’s biggest economy.

He will be sentenced at a later date. Verdicts on another 21 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 racial tensions in Mandela’s “Rainbow Nation”, radical white groups such as the Boeremag have very little support among South Africa’s five million-strong white population.

Reporting by Peroshni Govender; Editing by Ed Cropley and Andrew Roche

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