News24

Terre'Blanche mourners blame Malema

2010-04-09 11:27

Ventersdorp - Men in camouflage with pistols at their waists and little girls in their Sunday best gathered in Ventersdorp on Friday for the funeral of a AWB leader Eugene Terre'Blanche, who was killed in what has been described as a wage dispute with two young farm workers.

Security for Friday's funeral was tight, with a police helicopter circling over the squat, blond-brick church where hundreds of mourners gathered hours before the funeral was to begin.

Terre'Blanche's death has not sparked wider violence. South African leaders have acknowledged that racial tensions remain 16 years after apartheid ended, but have played down any threat to the World Cup that starts in June.

White militants who considered Terre'Blanche their leader say his death proves whites aren't safe under majority rule. Black leaders say controlling crime - whether its victims are white or black - is a priority in a country with one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world.

'They just hate us'


On Friday, some mourners linked Terre'Blanche's death to the fiery rhetoric of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, who in recent weeks has been reviving an anti-apartheid era song that refers to killing white farmers.

Kobus Rothmann, a Ventersdorp clergyman who described himself as a friend of Terre'Blanche, said Malema was spreading hate speech, and should be reined in by more senior ANC leaders.

"They just hate us, Malema hates us," Rothmann told reporters as he waited for the funeral service to begin.

Malema says the song has nothing to do with Terre'Blanche's death. While the ANC insists the song is part of its heritage, following Terre'Blanche's death it asked its members to refrain from performing anti-apartheid anthems that could be divisive.

On Thursday, Malema was accused of fanning already high tensions by hurling racially tinged insults at a white BBC reporter before ejecting the reporter from a news conference. That followed a television appearance Wednesday by the new leader of Terre'Blanche's AWB that ended with the leader, Andre Visagie, storming out of a live discussion about race relations. Visagie told a fellow guest, a black analyst: "I am not finished with you!"

For all the shouting, the aftermath of Terre'Blanche's death has shown how far South Africa has come. White militants first vowed revenge, but later joined President Jacob Zuma in calling for calm.

Earlier this week, whites and blacks faced off angrily in front of a heavily guarded courthouse where a teenager and another farm worker who allegedly confessed to killing Terre'Blanche were charged with murder in a closed hearing. But white leaders then asked their followers to go home, and the day ended calmly.

On Friday, the country's largest trade union called a meeting to coincide with the funeral in the part of Ventersdorp where most of the town's poor blacks live, ensuring there would be no racial confrontations.

Terre'Blanche 'mellowed in prison'

Also among the mourners on Friday was Bojosi Isaac Medupe, a black minister who said he visited Terre'Blanche in prison after he was convicted of beating a farm worker so badly the man was left brain damaged.

Medupe said he believed Terre'Blanche mellowed in prison, and was no longer committed to racial separatism or white supremacy when he left.

"I believe there was a change in him," Medupe said, adding Terre'Blanche later helped him buy land in Ventersdorp.

Terreblanche's Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging movement, better known as the AWB, seeks to create an all-white republic within mostly black South Africa. The group's red, white and black insignia resembles a Nazi swastika, but with three prongs instead of four.

The movement always has been on the fringes, estimated to have no more than 70 000 members at its height in the early 1990s out of a population of nearly 50m.

Terre'Blanche was sentenced to six years in jail in 2001 for the attempted murder of former security guard Paul Motshabi in March 1996. Terre'Blanche was released in 2004. Motshabi suffered brain damage, and was left paralysed and unable to speak for months after the attack.

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