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November 12, 2002
From Michael Dynes in Johannesburg
A RIGHT-WING extremist group has claimed responsibility for a series of bomb explosions last month, bringing fears of a resurgence of white supremacist terrorist attacks across South Africa.
The "Warriors of the Boer Nation" sent letters to several national newspapers accepting "full responsibility" for the blasts, most of them in the black township of Soweto, and said that they marked the "beginning of the end" of the African National Congress Government.
Calling for the release of 35 people arrested on various charges of treason and terrorism in recent months, including Tom Vorster, alleged to be the leader of the Boeremag, or Boer Force, the so-called Warriors threatened to mount a campaign of bombings in the run-up to Christmas if its demands were not met.
It is not clear if the so-called Warriors are an offshoot of the Boeremag or part of the same right-wing organisation. The Boeremag is already implicated in a conspiracy to overthrow the Government.
Sally de Beer, spokeswoman for South Africa's National Commissioner of Police, said that the letters "appear to emanate from members of the Boeremag, who described themselves as Warriors of the Boer Nation. Until we find evidence to the contrary, we are assuming it (the letter) is authentic. We do, in any case, generally step up operations and visible policing over the festive season, so although we think it's authentic, it is no reason to cause panic."
The letters come after the publication of photographs of six men wanted in connection with right-wing activities, including bomb attacks in Johannesburg and Pretoria on October 30, which left one person dead, another injured and caused widespread damage to railway lines.
Three of the six men being sought by the police are the sons of Johan Pretorius, a doctor from Limpopo Province, who was arrested this month after police confiscated a lorry belonging to him loaded with arms and explosives. Dr Pretorius is in custody with 17 other suspected right-wing extremists, including Mr Vorster.
More than 80 extreme right-wing groups are thought to be operating in South Africa. They represent a mixture of military underground cells, such as Boeremag, and an assortment of religious doomsday cults, such as Israel Vision and Daughter of Zion. Farmers, blue-collar workers, professionals, academics and retired military and police officers fill their ranks and they have cultivated the conviction that they are being "oppressed" by South Africa's black majority rule.
All share a white supremacist ideology that casts Afrikaners, the descendants of Dutch and French settlers who arrived in southern Africa more than 300 years ago, as "God's chosen people" and the indigenous inhabitants as inferior "mud people".
Most Afrikaners, who account for around 60 per cent of the 4.4 million white population in a country of 43 million, are horrified by the activities of these extremists. Nevertheless, such groups are believed to have tens of thousands of supporters.
F. W. de Klerk, the former President, and Pieter Mulder, leader of the mainstream right-wing Freedom Front Party. have given warning to President Mbeki that Afrikaners are feeling isolated and disillusioned. Many feel that their language and culture are being downgraded, they believe that the Government has little interest in solving the murders of more than 1,000 white farmers killed since black majority rule in 1994 and they fear that Pretoria's lukewarm criticism of President Mugabe's illegal seizure of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe is a portent of things to come in South Africa.
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