Boesak found guilty of theft and fraud

Former African National Congress leader Allan Boesak was yesterday found guilty of theft of foreign donations and of fraud after…

Former African National Congress leader Allan Boesak was yesterday found guilty of theft of foreign donations and of fraud after a long and sensational trial.

The verdict, delivered in the Cape High Court, was acutely embarrassing for the ANC, whose leadership had rallied around Boesak after he was indicted and come close to exonerating him in advance of the trial.

When Boesak was initially accused of stealing funds donated to his Foundation of Peace and Justice at the beginning of 1995, one of Deputy President Thabo Mbeki's legal advisers declared after examining the documentation that he was not guilty of embezzlement.

Later, when Boesak returned from the United States at the beginning of 1997 to stand trial, the Minister of Justice, Mr Dullah Omar, met him at the airport and proclaimed that he was guilty of nothing more than "struggle bookkeeping" aimed at deceiving the security police of the former white minority government.


Judge John Foxcroft, however, found him guilty of three counts of theft and one of fraud involving R1.3 million (£150,000). He acquitted the former ANC leader on 23 charges of theft and fraud, having earlier acquitted him of five similar charges.

Boesak, who displayed an insouciant confidence through most of the trial, sat stony-faced as Judge Foxcroft pronounced that he had "wrongfully and unlawfully appropriated money intended for the children of South Africa". The judge was referring to money stolen from the R682,000 donated to the child victims of apartheid by the American singer Paul Simon.

The two remaining convictions of theft related to the expropriation of funds donated by a Swedish aid agency for the education of black voters in 1994. The stolen money was used to build his second wife, television personality Elna Botha, an audio-visual studio; and the embezzlement of nearly R325,000 from the Foundation of Peace and Justice to buy two luxury houses.

After the trial was adjourned to allow his lawyers to prepare argument in mitigation of sentence, Boesak was cheered by his supporters. A former president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Boesak, whose alleged affair with a young church worker was leaked to the press by the security police in the 1980s, declined to comment.

President Nelson Mandela, who was in Norway when news of Boesak's conviction broke, also declined to comment. When allegations against Boesak first surfaced in 1995 Mr Mandela seemed loath to cancel the appointment of the clergyman-turned-politician as South Africa's ambassador-designate to Geneva. Later, when Boesak ran out of money to pay lawyers during his trial, Mr Mandela made a personal plea for funds for his beleaguered former political comrade.

In 1985 Boesak won admiration throughout the world by braving police batons and guns to lead a protest march to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town to demand the release of Mr Mandela.