Right-wing Crusaders accused appear in court

South African right-wing group charged with terrorism

17 years since the Boeremag trial started, another right-wing group has just been identified in the media as planning attacks that would have resulted in bloodshed.

It’s been a few days since members of the National Christian Resistance Movement were arrested in South Africa. I was preparing for an interview on South Africa’s High Treason Club when I heard of the new group’s arrest, and mind you, the group’s existence. So, as I made my way to the capital of Pretoria, the Middelburg Magistrates Court happened to be on my way. I knew I had to stop in and see 4 of the accused of the NCRM, or “The Crusaders” as they’re also known.

Accused number one, the leader, was 60-year old Harry Knoesen. He’s tall and thin, was wearing a blue/purple striped shirt and his eyes seemed a bit sunken in, but not tired. Next to him was Riana Heymans, who is apparently an estate agent and who appears to be deeply involved in the organization. Brothers Eric and Errol Abrams were arrested with Heymans, for harbouring Heymans while authorities were searching for her.

Karin Mitchell talks with eNCA about right-wing group the Crusaders
Click to watch the interview with eNCA journalist, Erin Bates, outside the Middelburg Magistrates Court on 2 December 2019.

Details of the group’s intended plans are still emerging, as is the scope of the reach of the group’s network. What is known, is that The Crusaders saw black South Africans as the enemy and that Knoesen was urging members from other right-wing movements to join them, saying that the group was ready to attack and that they were not going to wait any longer before they attack the enemy.

Harry Knoesen - NCRM - The Crusaders
Click on the image to watch Crusader leader, Harry Knoesen, as he attempts to recruit more members.

The case has been postponed for further investigation until January 2020 and it seems none of the 4 accused want to apply for bail. This means that these 4 individuals will be spending Christmas behind bars. By the time they’ll appear in court again, it will have been approximately 50 days since their arrest, and perhaps then, they may wish that they’d attempted to apply for bail. But then again, they’ve already been warned by the magistrate that the charges they face will carry a lifelong prison sentence if they are found guilty, so perhaps, a bail application will be in vain. Something to be aware of, is that some of the Boeremag members spent as long as a year in prison before their trial started. This was because more and more people were being arrested until 9 months after the first arrests – and who knows whether we might see the same thing in this case?

What we know for now, is that the group planned to attack a mall or malls on Black Friday, and that they were targeting black people. There is a suspected explosives factory in the Eastern Cape, which shows that the group expanded into other provinces, just like the Boeremag.

And just like the Boeremag, only time (and a lot of time in court) will tell how this story unfolds.

If you want to read more about the Boeremag to see how a right-wing group mobilized to launch an attack, get a copy of my book South Africa’s High Treason Club.

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