POLICE say they have arrested three men who were on their way to kidnap the 12-year-old son of a prominent businessman.

Limpopo police stopped the car carrying the men and discovered a rope, an axe, and a bottle containing chloroform.

The plot was for the men to go to the school the child attended in Bela Bela and snatch him while he was on his way home.

They would then contact his father and demand a R500000 ransom for his safe release.

Police arrested the men at midday on Friday, just two hours before they planned to commit the crime.

Police said yesterday that they released two of the men but charged Bela Bela building constructor Jakobus Engelbrecht, 40, with conspiracy to kidnapping and murder and possession of chloroform and a dangerous weapon.

He appeared in the Bela Bela magistrate's court yesterday and was remanded until Monday when he applies for bail.

Bela Bela police captain Johnny Thiyo said: "The other men were released pending further police investigations."

The plot was uncovered when a man approached Vaalbank police on Friday morning and blew the whistle, revealing everything and handing them the ransom note.

"The man said he was part of the plot, but he had decided to pull out and report it," Thiyo said.

Vaalbank police immediately alerted their counterparts in Bela Bela giving them details and descriptions of the three men.

Thiyo said they spotted Engelbrecht when he met the two other men. They then drove off with the police following them at a distance.

Engelbrecht became suspicious and tried to speed off but police blocked his way and arrested them.

The prominent businessman said he knew Engelbrecht who had done some renovation work on one of his properties three years ago.

The businessman said: "I do not want my kids to live in fear.

"I am pleased the cops did a stunning job by making early arrests ."