Delegates from the African National Congress attend the nomination session of their party meeting in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on Dec. 17.
BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa -- South African police said Monday they had foiled a plot by suspected right-wing Afrikaner extremists targeting an African National Congress (ANC) conference attended by President Jacob Zuma and dozens of top government officials.
Four men aged between 40 and 50 were arrested Sunday. A police spokesman told Reuters there was evidence they were planning acts around the country and not just at the ANC meeting in the central city of Bloemfontein.
The vast majority of South Africa's whites accepted the ANC's victory in the 1994 election that brought Nelson Mandela to power and ended decades of white-minority rule. However, a tiny handful continues to oppose the historic settlement.
"Their acts are widespread. We arrested them in different provinces," spokesman Billy Jones said.
ANC spokesman Keith Khoza said preliminary information suggested the men were planning to bomb the marquee where Zuma and 4,500 delegates are holding a five-day meeting to chose the ANC's leadership for the next five years.
"This would have been an act of terrorism that South Africa can ill afford," Khoza said.
AFP / Getty Images
South African President Jacob Zuma attends the second day of the annual meeting of the African National Congress in Bloemfontein on Dec. 17.
Party denies link
The Federal Freedom Party, a fringe group that campaigns for self-determination for the white Afrikaner minority, confirmed two of those arrested were party members, but denied any role in the suspected plot.
"We were not involved and do not associate ourselves with their actions," national secretary Francois Cloete said.
In July, a former university lecturer was found guilty of orchestrating a 2002 plot to overthrow the ANC and assassinate Mandela -- now 94 and receiving treatment in a Pretoria hospital for a lung infection.
There was a heavy security presence at the Bloemfontein meeting and the few vehicles allowed onto the university campus hosting the event were being searched by police and sniffer dogs.
The conference is set to give 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.
View images of civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who went from anti-apartheid activist to prisoner to South Africa's first black president.
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