Accessibility links

S. African Police Uncover Large Weapons Caches - 2002-11-20


South African police have uncovered two large arms caches in separate provinces. The government is hunting for right-wing extremists blamed in a series of bombings, and who have threatened to stage more attacks during the holiday season.

Detectives in the Northern Cape province discovered an arms cache including 26 pipe bombs. They found the weapons late Tuesday on a farm near the town of Keimoes, in a remote part of northwestern South Africa.

Police say the pipe bombs found in the Northern Cape are similar to those found several weeks ago in Limpopo province, which is in the northeast of the country.

Speaking to reporters in the Northern Cape, National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi described the find as substantial.

"It included 13 radio communication systems, and included some material that would be used by people that are engaged in a war situation," she explained. "So we, through the detectives and intelligence people in the South African Police Service, have worked very hard, and were able to detect and actually capture this cache - which goes to, in a way, going to assist us in reducing the possibilities of additional bombs being exploded in our country."

Mr. Selebi said no arrests have yet been made in connection with the Northern Cape arms cache.

But thousands of kilometers away, police in Eastern Cape province have arrested a man for illegal possession of various types of firearms, in connection with a separate arms cache. The Eastern Cape find included homemade grenades and more than 700 rounds of ammunition for shotguns and assault rifles.

Discovery of the arms caches follows a series of bomb explosions that rocked the township of Soweto, near Johannesburg, and a small town outside Pretoria. Police have blamed the attacks on right-wing white extremists and say they are searching for six suspects.

Some South Africans have said the attacks although carried out by extremists reflect a more general sense of disillusionment among members of the white Afrikaner community. Afrikaners are descendents of Dutch settlers and were the main beneficiaries of the former apartheid system.

But analyst Steven Friedman of Johannesburg's Center for Policy Studies says there is minimal support for the extremists among Afrikaners.

"Although you only need a small group to commit the outrage, you need some sort of public support to sustain this sort of activity, because over a period of time you have to be able to hide, you have to ensure that people support you enough not to let on to the police where you are hiding," Mr. Friedman said. "It very often helps to have significant support within the security force so that they will not look for you very hard. And all of those ingredients are fortunately missing here. I think that is why we are finding a situation in which, thank heaven, a police force which has, let us not forget, a significant number of white Afrikaans speakers in positions of importance why that police force is making inroads and breaking up this sort of activity."

Mr. Friedman believes the people responsible for the bombings are so far out on the fringe of modern South African society that it will not take long for police to shut down their network.

XS
SM
MD
LG