'Fanatics' planned to open fire on black people to 'bring numbers down': state

Harry Johannes Knoesen, the self-professed leader of the National Christian Resistance Movement, also known as the 'Crusaders' following his arrest last November.
Harry Johannes Knoesen, the self-professed leader of the National Christian Resistance Movement, also known as the 'Crusaders' following his arrest last November.
Image: Supplied

The prosecution on Friday served an indictment on the leader of the National Christian Resistance Movement, Johannes Knoesen, when he made a brief appearance at the Middelburg magistrate's court in Mpumalanga.

The unemployed 61-year-old, who lived with his fiancée in Middelburg, “had developed a deep-rooted hatred for the non-racial democratic dispensation”, according to the state. “He sought to justify his beliefs on religious grounds, claiming that God had ordained that he should reclaim SA for white people.

“These highly racial views were his motivation to decide to overthrow the government and to indiscriminately kill African people. To further this end, he also planned to attack government institutions and more specifically police and military installations. He also identified informal settlements occupied by Africans as targets for attack.”

Knoesen and co-accused Eric Abrams, 55, Erroll Abrams, 49, and Raina Heymans, 54, were arrested in November for allegedly planning to engage in terrorist activities.

The indictment he was served with on Friday details charges against him.

These are: planning to carry out terrorist attacks; incitement to carry out terrorist attacks; recruiting people to carry out terrorist attacks; and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.

The matter was postponed until October 22.

In the indictment, the state alleges Knoesen, during January and November last year, unlawfully and intentionally planned or prepared to engage in terrorist activity in SA. The state said the activity would have involved the systematic repeated or arbitrary use of violence by any means, causing serious injury or death of any number of people and causing the destruction of or substantial damage to property, as well as creating a serious public emergency situation or a general insurrection in the country.

“The said terrorist activities would have been perpetrated by using firearms, assault rifles, hand grenades, rocket launchers and explosive devices.

“The attacks would have been directed against people and institutions of the SA government as well as African SA citizens and certain sectors of the émigré community,” the indictment read.

The indictment said acts of planning included the establishment of the resistance movement, also known as the Crusaders or Crusaders NCRM.

Knoesen appointed himself commander-in-chief, giving himself the rank of general, and embarked on a recruitment drive.

The state said the planning also included Knoesen using social media platforms to advertise his plans to carry out their attacks and to call on former and current members of the security forces and members of the public to join him in carrying out these attacks.

“This recruitment drive led to a number of like-minded fanatics joining the organisation.

“As the membership of the organisation grew, the accused began holding meetings at various places throughout the country, where he unveiled his plans to overthrow the government and to kill African people ... As part of his planning, the accused had obtained a map of SA where he had marked areas where military bases were located. He also obtained documents relating to various military units.

“Members joining the organisation were divided into cells, depending on where they resided, and given military ranks. They were also encouraged to identify targets in line with his plan, located in their areas. A cell structure eventually covered the greater part of the country.”

The state alleges a meeting was held on the weekend of November 16-17 2019 where there was a plan to carry out a terrorist attack on Black Friday, November 29, 2019.

The indictment states Knoesen posted a video clip on November 16 last year stating that his organisation was “really close, really close to hitting and governing this country”.

In that note, Knoesen called on members of the public to take their firearms, go into the streets and open fire on members of the African population to bring their numbers down.

“The purpose of the planned terrorist attacks was to overthrow the government of SA, attack government institutions and kill African people so as to intimidate as well as cause or spread feelings of terror, fear or panic in the civilian population of SA and in particular the sections of the civilian population targeted,” the indictment read.

The indictment said before the weekend of November 23-24 last year, Knoesen contacted a former member of the security forces to supply him with weapons and ammunition, which included, among others, AK47 assault rifles, hand grenades and RPG7 rocket launchers.

" ... The police had, however, become aware of his activities and on November 28 2019 the accused was arrested at his residence in Middelburg. The weapons and ammunition were seized. Documentation relevant to the planning of the attacks and information relating to the members of the organisation and their cells was also found. Digital devices were also seized.

"[Knoesen] had so radicalised the members of the organisation that certain of them decided to nevertheless carry out an attack the following day at midnight. During the course of the afternoon of November 29 2019, Ms Heymans and two other members of the organisation were arrested. Components and ingredients for the manufacture of pipe bombs were seized as well as unlicensed firearms and ammunition.”

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