Police foil plot to bomb ANC meeting
South African police have foiled a plot by suspected right-wing Afrikaner extremists to bomb a marquee at an African National Congress (ANC) conference attended by President Jacob Zuma and dozens of top government officials.
A police statement released this morning said four men aged between 40 and 50 were arrested yesterday.
The statement gave few other details, but national police spokesman Phuti Setati said the men had been planning to plant a bomb in one of the tents at the ANC conference being held in the central city of Bloemfontein.
The Federal Freedom Party (FFP), a fringe group fighting for self-determination for South Africa's white Afrikaner minority, confirmed two of those arrested were FFP members but denied any role in the suspected plot. "We were not involved and do not associate ourselves with their actions," said FFP national secretary Francois Cloete.
More than 4,500 people, including Mr Zuma and dozens of ministers and top business people, are attending the five-day conference in Bloemfontein under a heavy police presence. The few vehicles being allowed onto the university campus hosting the meeting were being searched by police and sniffer dogs.
"This would have been an act of terrorism that South Africa can ill afford," ANC spokesman Keith Khoza said.
The vast majority of South Africa's whites accepted the ANC's victory in the 1994 election that ended decades of white-minority rule and brought Nelson Mandela to power. However, a tiny handful continues to oppose the settlement. In July, a former university lecturer was found guilty of orchestrating a 2002 plot to assassinate Mr Mandela, overthrow the ANC and drive South Africa's black majority out of the country.
The ANC conference is set to give Mr Zuma a second mandate to lead the party and - given the ANC's dominance at the ballot box - another five-year term in 2014 as president of Africa's biggest economy.
In his opening address to the conference yesterday, Mr Zuma called for an end to internal factional fighting and corruption in the ANC, which faces accusations that it has lost its moral compass under his scandal-hit presidency.
Nominations for top party positions take place today, with former union leader Cyril Ramaphosa - now South Africa's second-richest black businessman - well-placed to return to politics as Mr Zuma's deputy.
Sources close to Mr Ramaphosa, who has been out of front-line politics for the last decade, were confident he would win the vote for the position of ANC deputy president. Results of the internal election are expected tomorrow.
"The numbers are in our favour and we are going for it," said one ANC official backing Mr Ramaphosa. "It's almost a done deal, Cyril is going to be our next deputy president."