Murder of white supremacist Eugene Terre’Blanche may make him a martyr

Sunday, April 4, 2010

In death Eugene Terre’Blanche will achieve something which eluded him throughout life: cult status among the Afrikaner volk who are never slow to adopt a martyr.

The murder of Terre’Blanche, who was bludgeoned to death on his farm on Saturday, brings with it the threat of inter-racial war and political instability. But he was always an eyecatching, headline-grabbing figure, particularly in the 1980s, threatening war on the white-minority government after it entered into negotiations to end apartheid, his fiery, racist speeches often delivered from the back of a stallion.

When The Times interviewed him in October, the rhetoric had barely changed from 30 years previously.

 As ever, he invoked memories of the Boer War more than a century ago, in which an estimated 26,000 Afrikaners died in concentration camps set up by the British. “We fought the British Commonwealth, we can survive the ANC,” he said. Moments earlier he had just summoned his people to battle. Arms outstretched, his voice resonating around a packed hall, he shouted: “Our country is being run by criminals who murder and rob. This land was the best, and they ruined it all.”

Milking the applause and dabbing the spittle off his beard with a neatly pressed handkerchief, he cried: “We are being oppressed again. We will rise again.”

Later he told me: “We have international law on our side, our people are being slaughtered. The whites are being chased out of this country ... We want our own state where we can live in peace and harmony.”

He said that he had revitalised his party, the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), to save it from the oppression of the ANC Government which, he said, was flouting all its undertakings in the post-apartheid constitution.

He was once a feared force. In the run-up to the first all-party elections in 1994 the AWB tried to destabilise the country with a series of bombings. A coup was attempted in the apartheid homeland of Bophuthatswana, in which three members were shot dead in front of TV cameras.

But after a long spell in jail he lived in relative obscurity and even his revival of the AWB in 2008 — in which he pledged to lead Afrikaners into a breakaway state and promised to take the issue to the International Court at The Hague — could not dispel his image as a vaguely comical throwback to another, infamous era.

Despite his rhetoric, Terre’Blanche never succeeded in attracting the support of more than a minority of the country’s whites — but his murder, allegedly by two black workers, could not have happened at a worse time for South Africa. Sixteen years after the end of apartheid the country remains polarised. His demise — on his farm at Ventersdorp, not far from where England will kick off their World Cup campaign in June — will reinforce fears that the country’s appalling crime rate makes it an unsuitable host for the world’s biggest sporting event.

 Reprisals from his supporters are almost guaranteed — although how far they are willing to go (and what they are capable of) remains unknown. In the past the AWB has tended to creep away when its bluff is called. But it will certainly use this as propaganda to highlight the Government’s failings. Terre’Blanche’s death comes at a time when far more moderate whites have expressed alarm at a growing number of racially charged statements from the ANC, notably its youth leader Julius Malema — a 29-year-old firebrand who was in Zimbabwe when the murder occurred, with one of his heroes, President Mugabe.

Mr Malema, who mobilised the youth vote to get President Zuma into power last April, has resurrected a controversial song from the apartheid struggle, Kill the Boer. Even at the height of the anti-apartheid campaign many ANC stalwarts felt it sent out the wrong message. Two months before the World Cup it seems more than ever inappropriate and in contrast to the image of a Rainbow Nation full of opportunities that the Government wants to showcase.

More than 3,000 white farmers have been murdered since 1994 — a statistic largely met with indifference from today’s Government. Since Mr Malema started singing the song again, at least half a dozen more white farmers have been attacked, often in a brutal manner, leading to accusations that it is part of a wider campaign.

Mr Malema was accused of inciting racial hatred and told by a court last week not to sing the song again. The ANC said that it will take the issue to the Constitutional Court.

The ANC and, in particular Mr Zuma, have refused to discipline Mr Malema. The reason is simple. The teeming black townships are burning again in scenes reminiscent of the final days of apartheid. Critics say that the party has cynically played the race card to try to divert attention from its failings. Many poor blacks feel betrayed by policies which have created a new elite of black millionaires but left the vast majority trapped in poverty.

Many white South Africans feel marginalised as a result of affirmative action policies, the soaring crime rate and exclusion from political decision-making.

Mr Zuma, who has tried to build bridges with the Afrikaners, asked South Africans yesterday “not to allow agents provocateurs to take advantage of this situation by inciting or fuelling racial hatred”.

Pieter Groenewald, parliamentary leader of the Freedom Front Plus party, said: “We think it is time for Mr Zuma to condemn songs which incite violence like Kill the Boer. By not condemning it, he is condoning it. People already see South Africa as a dangerous country and this won’t help the 2010 soccer World Cup. People sitting in their homes abroad will be saying, ‘I’m not going there’.”

Terre'Blanche's sayings: in black and white

I’m a leader, not a lover [denying an affair with a journalist]

In the case that they are sending me to jail for, it wasn’t even me but my dog that attacked the man

I am going to stand, to work, to fight for the safety of my language, my mother tongue

I have always been made out as a racist, someone who hates black people.I don’t hate [blacks] them.I grew up with them. I just know there are many differences between whites and blacks and I will always believe it

[The Afrikaners] have everything a nation needs, except a land to call our own

God punished us with the Government of De Klerk and the new order was forced upon us. I ask you, what is it that you want?We are a pitiful little nation, but we will never ask forgiveness for apartheid

 The real hour to revive the resistance has arrived. It is clear the South African police can’t stop the rape, murder and robbery of our people

 From the rugby rainbow to separation in sport

•1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted and won by South Africa, was hailed as triumph for post-apartheid state. President Mandela presented trophy to Francois Pienaar, team captain

• Attacks on white farmers remain regular occurrence. Around 3,000 killed since 1994. Some farmers blame ANC for encouraging the attacks

• Tensions flared in 2006 after court dropped murder case against white family accused of torturing and killing three black employees

• Video emerged in 2008 showing white Afrikaner students forcing black cleaners to eat dirty meat and urine-tainted soup

• Policy on Zimbabwe is key issue. White farmers urge state to take a strong line. Many in ANC hail Mugabe as a hero

• Fifteen years after “Rainbow Nation” hosted a world cup, racial composition of national teams remains delicate issue

• When English cricket team toured this year, hosts fielded all-white side. Football team is dominated by black players

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