The so-called coup plotter planning a conspiracy to assassinate prominent South Africans is a single, 33-year-old unemployed man who lives with his mother in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria.
The man is, according to the police’s Crimes Against the State Unit, the alleged mastermind behind two opposing groups both apparently hellbent on overthrowing the government.
On Wednesday night the Hawks revealed that they had uncovered a “coup plot” in October 2016 by the Anti-State Capture Death Squad Alliance and the Anti-White Monopoly Capitalists Regime to carry out a string of assassinations.
The Alliance was planning on killing 19 ministers and other high profile officials, while the Regime had allegedly targeted four, the Hawks said.
It however appears that the 23 people targeted — including President Jacob Zuma, ministers Des van Rooyen, Ben Ngubane and Mosebenzi Zwane and former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, ex-Eskom boss Brian Molefe and former deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas — knew nothing of the plots.
Van Rooyen’s spokesman Legadima Leso yesterday told The Times he had not seen any increased security measures around Van Rooyen in recent weeks and that the minister “moved around as normal”.
Leso was not aware that Van Rooyen was on the so-called hit list of the ‘coup plotter’.
Meanwhile, in an interview with The Times late on Thursday, a lawyer for the Gupta family, Gert van der Merwe, revealed the family had also received a letter from the suspect, asking for R30-million to assassinate Madonsela, Jonas as well as then finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene.
“We did not know if it was a joke or not,” he said. “But my clients contacted me immediately on receiving the letter and I assisted them to draft a statement which was handed to the police with a request for immediate action to be taken.”
Both the Alliance and Regime, say the Hawks, who learnt of the Regime through their investigation into the Alliance, were in the process of sourcing funding from South Africa’s business giants, who allegedly include multi-national mining corporations.
The plot, which has been rubbished as laughable by terrorism and security experts, was uncovered after correspondence to potential donors from the suspect were intercepted by the police. He was apparently seeking R140-million to carry out his plans.
His plan, as the Alliance’s leader, was to use snipers to kill his targets. It’s unknown how he planned, as the Regime head, to carry out the murders of his targets.
Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi on Thursday provided a glimpse into the mind of the man, who he claims is “highly intelligent”.
“We have learnt that the suspect, who is single and unemployed, lives with his mother in Soshanguve…
“He believes that he is the answer to the political situation in South Africa.”
Mulaudzi said they were currently profiling the suspect, “who is the leader of both groups”.
“What we have learnt so far is that he is perfectly sound.”
He was arrested by undercover officers posing as potential donors.
“He didn’t approach us, we approached him after learning of the scheme through letters to big businesses seeking funding for his alleged plot.”
The suspect will appear in the Johannesburg magistrate’s court on Friday on a charge of conspiracy to murder.
“Officers raided his home and recovered certain pieces of evidence. No weapons were found in the search.”
Mulaudzi said the suspect had told them he was allegedly motivated by the political situation including state capture and white monopoly capital.
In response to claims that the plot was rubbish, Mulaudzi said while it could be a “crock of nonsense, when someone makes such threats we have to treat it seriously”.
Gareth Newham of the Institute for Security Studies said: “It’s quite fantastical. I don’t think it was a serious attempt.”
He added it didn’t seem plausible that anyone plotting a murder would approach businesses for money beforehand.
“It could be someone who has mental health problems or it could be something being set up by Zuma supporters in order to make him look like a victim,” Newham said.
Newham said that one would like to trust that a professional investigation was being done and that no-one at on the investigation’s teams was playing into a “political agenda”.
“The way it is written just sort of comes across as if they are trying to make out that there is this big plot against these people. Is it one person who is playing a game? Was he put up to it to throw a smoke screen?” he asked.
Jasmine Opperman, director of southern Africa operations at the Terrorism, Research and Analysis Consortium, said she was sceptical about the plot – based on limited information available.
Speaking on Cape Talk radio, Opperman said: “I have heard of lone wolf terrorism. I have never heard of a lone wolf coup attempt.”
She said coup plots usually involved a group structure.
“If they were serious in actually executing a coup, would they openly go on social media and go and ask, or via letters, for funding from players outside the country? It does not make sense.”
Opperman, citing previous discredited government “intelligence reports”, questioned whether the timing of the bust did not form part of a “conspiracy mind-set” to divert attention away from civil society demanding that Zuma step down.