S. Africa convicts two whites of sabotage

South Africa's two most recent political prisoners could provide an unusual problem for the government. They are convicted of sabotage and terrorism -- something not unheard of in South Africa today.

But if they were put into one of the maximum-security prisons reserved for such prisoners, they would be oddly out of place, perhaps even in danger from their fellow prisoners.

Instead of trying to overthrow the state by violence -- the usual charge in so-called sabotage or terrorist trials -- they earnestly believe they have been doing their best to uphold the status quo and protect white minority rule from "liberals" and other "undermining" elements.

The two, Domingo Bollo and Fabio Miriello, are immigrants. They were convicted of setting off a bomb in the office of an Afrikaner professor in Pretoria because he allegedly was helping to sell out the whites, and of accumulating a hoard of weapons so that they could make a "last stand" if there were signs of a black Marxist takeover in South Africa.

One of the Witnesses in the case was a young woman called Monica Huggett, who said she was formerly a member of the "Knights of the Ku Klux Klan."

"I was opposed to racial integration," she told the court, "and I still am."

The court sent Bollo to jail for 10 years and Miriello for five. The judge described their organization, rather flamboyantly called the White Commando, as a "ramshackle affair with few followers" even though the defense claimed that "thousands of whites" in South Africa share their views.

The White Commando is just one of several far-right white organizations that have surfaced recently. None of the others is believed to be involved in sabotage.

One of the most bizarre of these organizations is a group of sad-faced women who parade on public occasions wearing long black dresses and old-fashioned black bonnets known as kappies. They call themselves the Kappie Kommando.

Far stronger and apparently growing in strength, especially in the northern Transvaal Province where the political climate is markedly more right wing than in the more relaxed southern provinces, is the Afrikaner Weerstandbeweging [the Afrikaans Resistance Movement].

Its message: Right-wing Afrikaners have a God-given mission to stand together to defend apartheid. It is trying to unite right-wing groups in an umbrella organization to be called Volksreddingaksie (National Survival Action).

Although the right-wing groups, including the formal right-wing Herstigte Nasionale Party, have so far failed to gain direct representation in the all-white South African Parliament, the government is obviously perturbed at their growth, and this is widely believed to have obliged the Botha administration to temper its reformist program.

But some political scientists believe right-wing activity is not solely destructive. Says a professor at the University of Stellenbosch: "Appearance of reactionary groups is one of the first signs that genuine reforn is taking place."

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.