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White Supremicists Denounce South Africa Trial as Illegitmate - 2003-06-23

Thirteen of the 22 white supremacists accused of plotting to overthrow the South African government have told the court the proceedings are illegitimate. And six others have pleaded not guilty while three others have postponed their plea.

The lawyer for 13 of the accused told the court that South Africa's current constitution is invalid because the political developments that led to it, including the country's first democratic election in 1994, were illegal. Defense attorney Paul Kruger argued that, as a result, all current legislation and judicial authorities in South Africa are illegal.

The state alleges the 22 defendants are members of the Boeremag, the Boer Force, a white supremacist organization, and that they plotted to overthrow the government and drive all blacks into the sea. In pursuit of that goal, the state charges, they committed acts of sabotage and murder and also attempted to assassinate former President Nelson Mandela by blowing up his vehicle.

The alleged attempt failed because Mr. Mandela traveled by helicopter on the day in question.

The Boeremag is a shadowy white-supremacist group that operates on the fringes of South Africa's predominantly Afrikaner rightwing communities. Reports say it is connected to the rise of a new religious group known as the Lewende Hoop, or Living Hope, which began five years ago near the Free State town of Kroonstad.

The Lewende Hoop now has 30 congregations countrywide. It preaches that white Protestants, including Afrikaners, are God's chosen who are born to rule, that interracial unions are against the word of God, and that only these white Protestants will ultimately be saved by God.

The first weeks of the trial, which was previously postponed four times, will be taken up in procedural and technical arguments. Some defendants are also contesting the legality of some evidence gathered by the prosecution, while others who cannot afford legal representation are disputing the legal aid provided to them.

The prosecution is expected to start presenting evidence in the trial in August.