April 21 2011
The proposed coup and conspiracy plan by the Boeremag to overthrow the government had not been abandoned, the prosecution in this marathon trial told the Pretoria High Court.
Delivering the State’s final arguments before judgment in the trial, lead prosecutor Paul Fick SC asked Judge Eben Jordaan to convict the 21 accused of high treason, murder, attempted murder and an array of charges ranging from unlawful possession of arms and ammunition to manufacturing of explosives.
Fick said the State was of the opinion that the plans to overthrow the government still existed.
Documents indicating this were found in the possession of Rudi Gouws and Herman van Rooyen after they were captured when they had been on the run for several months.
They had made a dash for freedom while being held at the holding cells at court.
Fick said these documents which were recovered and which the State claimed were drawn up while the two were on the run, had set out a further plan to achieve their goals, namely a coup.
He said it also consisted of a plan to set free their co-accused, half of whom were kept in custody.
Last week the State concluded their legal arguments pertaining to judgment. It is expected that the defence will start its arguments on May 23.
The marathon Boeremag trial is the longest and most expensive trial to date in South Africa’s legal history. While it is difficult to calculate what the trial is costing the State, the legal fees for the accused, footed by the taxpayer, ran to R20 million two years ago. This is according to figures issued by the Legal Aid Board at the time.
Next month it will be the eighth year of the trial. It started on May 19, 2003, but it was at the time marked by various applications and other hiccups. The first witness was only called to the stand months down the line - in October, 2003.
By that time accused No 23, Dawie Oosthuizen, had pleaded guilty to terrorism and he was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment. While his co-accused are still standing trial, Oosthuizen has been released on parole in the meantime and has since fathered a child.
Meanwhile, 10 of the accused are awaiting trial in Pretoria’s Local Prison, while the remaining 11 are on bail.
The charge sheet, containing the 43 charges, runs to six volumes and the evidence before court consists of more than 46 000 pages. The State’s legal arguments regarding judgment runs into 1 800 pages and it took Fick a week to only argue the summary of the State’s case.
The State closed its case on June 15, 2007. The lengthy procedure of calling the accused to the stand to present their case then started. All of the accused, apart from five, testified in their own defence.
Security has been as tight as on day one of the trial, with the accused who are in custody being transported to court every day under heavy police escort and loud sirens. The only difference is that people these days barely glance up, while some would say, “Oh, its only the Boeremag again.”
A police sniffer dog diligently goes through the court every morning to make sure everything is safe. The sniffer dog, at the start of the trial, while it was still conducted in the Palace of Justice, caused some chaos when it sniffed intensely at a coffee flask standing alone on the floor in the dock.
The police were not going to take chances and blew the flask up, as they suspected it could be a bomb. It later turned out that it belonged to accused Dr Lets Pretorius.
It emerged that another accused, Frederick Boltman, was asked by Pretorius, who was at the time still awaiting trial behind bars, to buy him a flask. Boltman, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, forgot the flask at home, but eventually remembered to bring it.
He gave it to Pretorius, who forgot it in the dock when he left for jail in the afternoon. He told prison officials to fetch it, but they were too late - it had already been blown up.
The lengthy trial was also marked by many delays over the years.
There were at least 40 interlocutory applications - which include gripes from the accused behind bars regarding prison food and their conditions in jail.
They also launched an application to have a quieter C-Max, as they said they could no longer handle the music blaring from the public system. It was Metro FM and Jacaranda 94.2 on alternate days and at full volume, they complained. The court at the time ordered correctional services to disconnect the loudspeakers in the section where they were kept.
Another gripe was a bright light shining from the passage into their cells, causing them sleepless nights.
This prompted the judge who at the time had to decide over this complaint, to promptly go and see for himself what was going on at night. He found the light not to be as disturbing as claimed by the accused.
There were at least 35 bail and other related applications
While this marathon trial is coming to a head, it is not certain at this stage whether it will be concluded this year.