JOHANNESBURG — South African police have arrested four right-wing extremists on suspicion of plotting an attack on a conference of the ruling African National Congress Party.
Local media report that at least two of the men arrested belong to the Federal Freedom Party which claims to be fighting for self-determination for the white Afrikaner minority.
Police did not give many details on the alleged plot, and could not be reached Monday for more information.
ANC spokesman Keith Khoza says the situation is worrying, but that the five-day conference will continue as planned, albeit under heavy security.
“We are concerned because you have elements in society that still think in that way. It says you are facing serious challenges," he said. "South Africa has been through the worst and the last thing we want is to go back to a situation where you still experience race-based violence or terrorism. It is not in keeping with what we as South Africans collectively are trying to achieve.”
Sunday, the first day of the conference, was a South African national holiday, the Day of Reconciliation.
The five-day conference started with President Jacob Zuma giving a speech on his administration’s successes and goals. In it, he acknowledged that the nation battles corruption and governance issues.
Zuma is hoping that he will be re-elected party leader at this conference, which will make him heir apparent to the presidency again in 2014. The party also will debate hotly contested issues such as land reform and a proposal to nationalize parts of the mining sector.
Zuma says he believes the party he leads “remains the only hope for the poor and marginalized,” but his tenure has been marred with allegations of corruption and poor governance.
In coming days, the party’s 4,500 delegates will choose between Zuma and his main contender, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, for the ANC’s top job.
Analysts almost universally believe Zuma will win the contest against the quiet, professorial Motlanthe.