On Monday, a pastor was found guilty of plotting to topple the South African government and murder thousands of the country’s Black people. A South African court convicted Harry Johannes Knoesen guilty of high treason, incitement to carry out violent attacks, and recruiting people to carry out attacks, according to The Associated Press.
Prosecutors say that the 61-year-old leader of the National Christian Resistance Movement and his gang discussed using a biological weapon to murder Black South Africans. According to prosecutors, one of the techniques they considered was poisoning reservoirs that supplied water to Black neighborhoods.
Knoesen was also found guilty of illegally possessing guns by the court. At the time of his arrest, investigators discovered guns in his possession. In 2019, the organization was stopped by South African police and intelligence. The organization’s cells in numerous locations across the country have subsequently been neutralized, and some of the group’s leaders have been detained.
Members of Knoesen’s organization who were imprisoned took the stand to testify in his defense. Members of the group are currently serving prison times for similar actions.
Prosecutors alleged that Knoesen’s plans were motivated by his “very racial ideas,” and that he attempted to justify his acts by citing his faith. According to The Associated Press, prosecutors said Knoesen said he had been ordained to “reclaim South Africa for white people.”
“To that aim, he planned to attack government institutions, particularly police and military institutions,” Monica Nyuswa, a spokeswoman for the National Prosecuting Authority, told the news organization.
Knoesen allegedly targeted townships and informal settlements with Black residents, according to Nyuswa.
The convicted pastor is accused of encouraging people to conduct acts of violence against Black people on Facebook. He is also accused of using social media to recruit members of the South African military to join his group and carry out the attacks.
Knoesen is also said to have testified, admitting to sharing “recipes” for making bombs on Facebook. This isn’t the first time that South African officials have thwarted a plot like this.
After their efforts to overthrow the government and kill the country’s first Black President Nelson Mandela were foiled, a South African court convicted 20 members of the right-wing White supremacy organization Boeremag in 2013.
According to The Associated Press, the ten-year trial was one of the longest in South African history. Their penalties varied from five to thirty-five years in prison.
The group, like Knoesen’s, was opposed to South Africa shifting to democracy when apartheid ended. The sentencing hearing for Knoesen will begin on June 10, 2022.