The Blue Train massacre, known to its perpetrators by the codename Broken Covenant, was a terrorist attack carried out by the African National Congress (ANC) against the South African government, resulting in the death of the country's entire cabinet. Unbeknownst to the ANC, the attack was secretly enabled by South Africa's reactionary Minister of Law and Order, Karl Vorster, so that he could take control of the country. The attack instigates the events of the war novel Vortex.
In the months preceding the attack, South Africa's ruling National Party under State President Frederick Haymans was discussing options for reform with the ANC. While these negotiations to end apartheid were made in good faith, neither side trusted the other and radicals on both sides opposed the negotiations outright. The National Party refused to consider a universal franchise for South Africa, so the ANC refused to end their guerrilla operations.
Karl Vorster, the secret leader of the white supremacist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), was nominally a member of the National Party but in truth held no loyalty to the government and strongly opposed the negotiations. Against Haymans' orders, he organized a raid against an ANC base in Zimbabwe, where his forces found documents detailing the ANC's Broken Covenant plan. He learned that the ANC had authorized the attack, but that they planned to abort it because they expected a breakthrough in the negotiations.
Vorster and his associate Erik Muller kept this knowledge secret, even from other AWB members in the government. Instead, Vorster and Muller arranged for the murder of the ANC member assigned to deliver the abort command. To avoid infiltration, the ANC had a slow and circuitous communications network. Consequently, the ANC's leadership had no other way to issue an abort command to the Broken Covenant team, ensuring that they could not call off the attack.
Haymans and his cabinet were to travel from Pretoria to Cape Town on the Blue Train for Parliament's summer recess. Vorster, knowing of the impending attack, excused himself from the cabinet meeting on the train. He also told his AWB associates that "an opportunity" would soon appear to take power, preparing them to take over in the vacuum the massacre would create.
The Blue Train massacre was carried out by a team of 15 ANC guerrillas. The team placed a 100 kg (220 lb) plastic explosive charge on the tracks in preparation for the train's arrival and waited in nearby scrub, armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades they had received a few days earlier.
The moment the train passed over the explosives, the attackers remotely detonated the bomb, launching the train off the tracks and into a ravine. This alone killed many of the people on board the train. However, the attackers descended into the ravine afterward to ensure that Haymans and every member of his cabinet was dead. They went from car to car, firing bullets and grenades into the wreckage to kill anyone who might have survived the crash. The massacre was a success, killing every single person aboard the Blue Train.
Afterward, the ANC team attempted to flee, hoping to escape to a base in a neighboring country. However, Vorster wished to eliminate loose ends. The attackers were killed by an artillery bombardment directed against the forest they were hiding in.
Vorster ascended to the office of State President after the Blue Train massacre and formed a new cabinet with his AWB allies. South Africa was transformed into a fascist dictatorship under his rule, reinstating apartheid and declaring a policy of Afrikaner supremacy. Vorster's heavy-handed rule was very unpopular, even among whites, resulting in widespread unrest.
Vorster also invaded Namibia, hoping to end its recent independence from South Africa. Cuban forces stationed in Angola intervened to stop him, and eventually invaded South Africa itself. This led to a devastating war that killed tens of thousands of people, saw the use of a South African nuclear weapon, and forced the intervention of the United States and United Kingdom. The war ended with an Anglo-American victory and the arrest of Vorster, bringing apartheid to an end.
After the war, Vorster was charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and treason, presumably in relation to the Blue Train massacre. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor for his crimes.
- The Blue Train is a real train connecting Pretoria and Cape Town. It began service in 1923 and has been consistently described as one of the most luxurious trains in the world.