A defiant former state president PW Botha on Friday warned that the Afrikaner people would fight back if threatened and said they were already organising to ensure the protection of their rights.

After appearing briefly in the George Regional Court on Friday morning on charges of ignoring a Truth and Reconciliation Commission subpoena, Botha delivered a tirade against the government, the TRC, the African National Congress and others.

Botha wagged his finger at a large and unruly media conference inside the court after the trial was adjourned and insisted he had nothing to apologise for.

More than one journalist remarked that Botha, who suffered a stroke in 1989, was out of touch with reality as he ranted and raved about the onslaught being waged against Afrikaners and defended apartheid as an Afrikaner term which meant "good neighbourliness".

The 82-year-old Botha clearly enjoyed all the attention and brushed off attempts by his lawyers to bring the hour-long press conference to an early close.

"Afrikaners should unite and thereafter join forces with groups of similar convictions, so as to oppose that which is wrong in our country," he said.

He claimed the government was placing South Africa "on a very dangerous road", and accused the TRC of being the "biggest culprit" when it came to stoking racism.

Botha said he stood by all those who had executed lawful commands from his government in its struggle against the "revolutionary communist onslaught against our country".

"This comprehensive onslaught was conducted on all avenues of life and consisted of the most gruesome violent acts against the civilians of our country. It would seem as if these violent deeds are presently conveniently being ignored and forgotten by the TRC, and some politicians."

Botha was charged after ignoring a TRC subpoena to attend a hearing to answer questions about the now-defunct State Security Council, which he headed.

The court hearing, presided over by magistrate Victor Lugaju, lasted just 21 minutes, before being adjourned to February 23 when Botha will be asked to plead.

The postponement was granted to allow all parties access to the case documentation.

If Botha pleads not guilty, the case will go to trial on April 14.

Botha's lawyers stressed that he had no intention of delaying the trial unnecessarily.

"Our client's express wish is to arrive at the crux of this case, namely ... the breach of an agreement on the part of the TRC and the patent unreasonableness of the TRC. Our client's desire is to continue with his life and not to protract this case unnecessarily," his advocate Lappe Laubscher said.

Chris Cillier, appearing for the Western Cape attorney-general, agreed that the interests of justice would best be served if the case was dealt with speedily.

Doubt has been cast to how Botha will pay for his defence given the government's decision to withdraw financial assistance for his legal representation.

Laubscher said Botha would still have to decide whether or not to challenge the government's decision, because this would be time-consuming and could delay the trial considerably.

Botha, who was smartly dressed in a navy suit, white shirt and homburg hat, arrived in court accompanied by his fianacee Reinette te Water Naude,

A number of his former charges, including former defence minister Magnus Malan, Freedom Front leader and former SA Defence Force chief General Constand Viljoen and former SADF chief General Jannie Geldenhuys, attended the trial.

Also present were the former administrator of the Cape Dr Lapa Munnik, who served in Botha's Cabinet, and Conservative Party leader Dr Ferdie Hartzenberg.

Botha saluted them as they stood up to greet him.

Botha's daughter Elanza Maritz and her daughter Jeanelize also attended the trial.

About 400 ANC members staged a peaceful protest outside the court building. They were separated from a handful of pro-Botha supporters by a three meter high razor wire barricade.

Tensions ran high but a large police contingent kept the situation under control.

Police spokesman Superintendent Wicus Holtzhausen told Sapa afterwards that there had been no incidents necessitating any arrests and no charges had been laid with the police.

The Freedom Front later said the ANC protesters displayed provocative and antagonistic placards.

"The FF is pleased to see that the Afrikaners who attended the hearing heeded my appeal to them to act with dignity, despite the undignified reaction of the African National Congress demonstrators," Viljoen said in a statement.

"The positive aspect of the hearing is that, besides myself, three other generals, old NP members and the leader of the Conservative Party were present. This is an indication that out of these humiliating circumstances a unifying influence is being exercised on the Afrikaner."

South African Press Association, 1998
This text is for information only and may not be published or reprinted without the permission of the South African Press Association