JOHANNESBURG -- South African courts have convicted a pastor for plotting to overthrow government officials and kill thousands of Black citizens.
Harry Johannes Knoesen (61), a leader in the National Christian Resistance Movement was found guilty Monday of high treason and incitement to conduct violent attacks. He also recruited people to do attacks.
According to the prosecution, Knoesen's team explored the possibility that a biological weapon could be used to infect and murder Black people. This included poisoning water reservoirs that supply Black communities.
The Middelburg High Court also found Knoesen guilty of unlawfully possessing firearms. He was also found with ammunition and weapons when he was taken into custody in Middelburg. This is a small municipality in eastern Mpumalanga.
South Africa's intelligence and police services stopped the plot of the pastor's group in 2019. They have since destroyed the cells of the organization and taken some of its leaders into custody.
Knoesen was convicted based on testimony from witnesses, including members of his group currently serving sentences for similar crimes.
The state claimed that Knoesen plotted to retake South Africa for whites and was motivated by his "highly racist views".
According to Monica Nyuswa (a spokeswoman of the National Prosecuting Authority), "To further his end, he planned attack government institutions, and more specifically, police and military institutions."
She also said that he identified as targets townships or informal settlements occupied Black South Africans.
Knoesen is accused of using social media platform Facebook for inciting violence against Black people. He also recruited ex-military personnel from South Africa to join his movement and carry out planned attacks. He was detained in November 2019, and cells were destroyed in different parts of the country.
According to the Middelburg Observer newspaper, Knoesen testified that he shared "recipes" for explosives manufacturing with his Facebook followers.
This isn't the first racist plot or treasonous plot that has been discovered in South Africa.
Twenty members of the right-wing white supremacy group, the Boeremag, were sentenced in 2013 to prison for plotting against Nelson Mandela's assassination and overthrowing the government to kill thousands of Black people.
Following a 10-year trial for treason, which was one of the longest in American history, they were sentenced to sentences ranging between five and 35 years.
This group, along with Knoesen's was against South Africa's democracy that brought an end to apartheid. The country's white minority rule ended in 1994 when the first democratic elections saw Mandela elected president.
Knoesen will be back in court for sentencing proceedings on June 10.