A white South African pastor convicted after planning to kill thousands of Black residents and overthrow the government. On June 6, a jury found 61-year-old Harry Johannes Knoesen of the National Christian Resistance Movement guilty of high treason, recruiting people to commit attacks and incitement to carry out violent attacks. The prosecution stated that Knoesen put together a group of individuals who thought of ways that a biological weapon could infect and kill Black people. Of their ideas, the group discussed the idea of poisoning of water reservoirs used by Black communities.
In addition to those charges, the Middelburg High Court charged the pastor with unlawful possession of firearms. At the time of his arrest, weapons and ammunition were recovered. South African police worked with other law enforcement agencies to prevent the attacks from happening in 2019. Members of Knoesen’s group reportedly provided authorities with evidence against the pastor after they were convicted of similar crimes.
Prosecutors argued that the 61-year-old had “highly racial views” and planned to justify his actions by using religion. Sources added that Knoesen intended to “reclaim South Africa for white people.” Monica Nyuswa (a spokeswoman for the National Prosecuting Authority) talked with The Associated Press saying, “To further this end, he planned to attack government institutions and more specifically police and military institutions.” Records show that the pastor used Facebook to recruit members of the South African military to join his plan. The Middelburg Observer alleges that in his testimony, Knoesen shared “recipes” on how to make explosives.
A similar plot was blocked in 2013 when a white supremacy group known as the Boeremag attempted to kill Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first Black president. The group also tried to overthrow the government and kill thousands of Black people.