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Most Wanted South African Extremists Appear in Court - 2002-12-12

Eight of South Africa's most-wanted rightwing extremists have appeared in court after their arrests on charges related to a bombing spree last month. South African president Thabo Mbeki says right wing extremists are in a very small minority.

The eight men appeared in court late Thursday on charges of treason, terrorism and arms violations. Five were among the country's most wanted fugitives after a series of bomb blasts last month in which a woman died. They are believed to be members of the so-called "Warriors of the Boer Nation" which claimed responsibility for the blasts.

The organization is affiliated with another group, the Boeremag or Boer Force an extremist right wing group comprised primarily of Afrikaners, which has vowed to overthrow the government and chase all blacks into the sea. The "Warriors" promised they would cause chaos and disruption in South Africa during the holidays by blowing up infrastructure and communications links.

In his annual interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation, South African President Thabo Mbeki said there are still a few diehard racists in who are determined to undermine the country. But, he said, it is evident they have very little support.

"It won't get the support of the population in the country. And indeed I'm quite certain that a good part of the progress made by the police with regard to catching some of the people responsible for this, is because the public is cooperating with the police. Because the majority of South Africans, both black and white, they don't want war and violence and so on, they've seen enough of that," President Mbeki said.

Earlier the Minister of Police indicated that his forces are getting information and cooperation from within the Afrikaner community. This is reminiscent of what occurred in 1994 when a similar racist group attempted to disrupt the country's first democratic elections. That bombing spree resulted in the deaths of dozens of people. Most of the perpetrators were arrested and are now serving jail terms.

Police say they are still searching for the man they believe is the ringleader behind the latest bombing spree, but they add that they are following important leads. The eight men arrested this week were remanded in custody until next May.