by Dan Roodt
The exceedingly harsh sentences handed down by Judge Eben Jordaan in the Boeremag trial have had a mixed reception in South Africa. On the one hand, members of the black elite and the white neo-Marxist Left have reacted with unbridled Schadenfreude. On the other, patriotic Afrikaners – while not agreeing with the Boeremag’s reasoning or methods – have nonetheless evinced instinctive sympathy with them and their long-suffering families.
Jordaan has taken a very formalistic approach to the South African constitution and the country’s recent history, refusing to see the many mitigating factors that would have elicited more humane sentences.
First of all, only one person died as a result of the Boeremag explosions, some distance away from the scene. This was rightly seen by the court as a case of culpable homicide. As first offenders, in a country where even the most sadistic child murderers get released after ten years, it should not have carried a heavy penalty.
The many outlandish elements of the trial were no doubt included by the state in its evidence for the maximum propaganda effect. How could fewer than two dozen white men ever hope to displace thousands of South African blacks, let alone the whole population of forty million?
However, the most important factor that detracts from the guilt of the Boeremag trialists was the intimate involvement of state agents who did not attempt to dissuade them from pursuing their attempts at sabotage but in fact encouraged them. Not so long ago there was a similar “sting” operation in Germany during which the secret service or Verfasssungsschutz had infiltrated both the NDP, a political party and a group known as Sturm 34 which was at one point led by a government agent. German courts rejected governmental attempts to ban the NDP due to its heavy infiltration by state agents, finding that responsibility between the state and illegal political activity had actually blurred. In the USA too, courts take a dim view of overzealous state agents who “persuade” citizens to break the law.
Many people claim or suspect that the state organised the Boeremag “rebellion” in order to “mop up” right-wing dissidents. The detailed and incriminating “Document 12″ was apparently supplied to the Boeremag members by the state who, through its agents, was intimately involved in so-called “strategic planning”.
The extreme, dehumanising violence associated with South African farm murders acted as a trigger for the Boeremag’s activities. One could argue that under conditions of lawlessness and violence, men are more easily persuaded to answer violence with violence. Certainly that is the line taken by Nelson Mandela and his fellow accused at the Rivonia trial who saw their sabotage campaign as justified by the police shooting at Sharpeville.
This leads to another problem of post-1994 South Africa to which Judge Eben Jordaan has not been attentive: violence is often seen as a legitimate vehicle for political objectives. With the exception of Clive Derby-Lewis and Eugene de Kock, among others, those who had committed acts of terror prior to 1994 were all amnestied by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Even the cold-blooded murderers of Amy Biehl were exonerated by the TRC because they supposedly killed her for “political reasons”.
So-called “democracy” has not led to a pacification of the South African population. There are more riots by South Africa’s black population now than ever under so-called “apartheid”. Together with farm attacks and house robberies, the general instability produces a climate of fear and insecurity that engender radical ideas like secession, rebellion or insurrection. In this respect, South Africa is a victim of the notion that it is “just another decolonising African country” that must be “liberated” through the kind of cleansing violence described by a theorist such as Franz Fanon.
During sentencing, Judge Eben Jordaan described South Africa as a constitutional democracy. But does that stand up to scrutiny? During the negotiations in the early 1990s, one of the objectives of the Slovo-Mandela camp was to disenfranchise ethnic Afrikaners. Both provinces and towns were demarcated in such a way that not a single area of the country is ruled by Afrikaners who have been here for 360 years. The largest concentration of Afrikaners in the country, Pretoria and environs where about 500 000 of them live, does not even control a local government and are made to undergo unpopular decisions, including humiliating name changes.
While not condoning sabotage and terrorism, at least the disenfranchisement of the Afrikaner national minority should have been taken into account in judging the actions of the Boeremag accused.
There is a further paradox in South Africa: Violence and terror are eulogised by the media, politicians and historians, as long as such violence was committed against whites or against Afrikaners. Both Communist Party leader Joe Slovo and Nelson Mandela, who had ordered the Church Street bomb and other horrific attacks on civilians, are presented as “good men” who had selflessly fought for freedom. In Amanzimtoti, terrorist Andrew Zondo who had placed a bomb in a shopping centre full of Christmas shoppers on 23 December 1985, has had the main street of the town named after him, in the very place where victims and relatives still nourish the wounds of their nightmare experience.
We see then that the South African state is increasingly suffering a legitimation crisis caused by:
- the effective disenfrenchisement of the Afrikaner minority;
- corruption and profligacy at all levels of government;
- a plethora of racial laws limiting the employment and educational opportunities of Afrikaners, in the name of “affirmative action” for the majority;
- physical insecurity which is only mitigated to some extent by private security companies, neighbourhood watches and so on;
- anti-white and anti-Afrikaner rhetoric by leading ANC political figures;
- the deterioration of infrastructure such as roads, electricity and water supply, as well as state hospitals where many whites are simply left to die without proper care;
- systemic cultural and language discrimination, with Afrikaans schools and universities under attack by government bureaucrats and ANC politicians;
- the impending radical land reform which could plunge the country into Zimbabwe-style famine and chaos;
- the general perpetuation of communist/Marxist ideas in South Africa that have lost their legitimacy or attraction elsewhere in the world.
If the Boeremag trial had lasted six months and the accused had been sentenced in 2003 or 2004, shortly after their arrest, probably the Afrikaans public would have seen them simply as extremists out of touch with the new reality of ANC rule. However, given the protracted length of the trrial and the changing perceptions of our much-lauded “democracy”, public sympathies for the accused have definitely been in the asendance, even among those law-abiding middle-class Afrikaners who accept the fait accompli of National Party capitulation and a concomitant loss of Afrikaner sovereignty.
Afrikaner history is replete with martyrs after unsuccessful rebellions who received harsh treatment from a hostile government. There was the infamous death by firing squad suffered by Jopie Fourie on 20 December 1914, but also the Slagtersnek hangings of 1816 that gave rise to the Great Trek inland from the Cape.
Judge Eben Jordaan may just have given Afrikaners another Slagtersnek, apart from adding to the legitimation crisis of the current South African regime.