AWB rules out revenge

2010-04-05 23:11

Ventersdorp - The AWB promised on Monday not to seek violent revenge for the death of Eugene Terre'Blanche, easing fears that his death might provoke racial unrest.

Terre'Blanche, who led the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) that pushed to preserve apartheid in the 1990s, was hacked and battered to death on Saturday following a suspected dispute over pay with two black farm workers.

Leaders of his party, which has been marginalised in recent years, initially vowed to avenge his death, blaming it on sentiment whipped up by the leader of the youth league of the African National Congress.

But an AWB spokesperson told reporters that the party was not planning any violent action.

"The AWB is not going to engage in any form of violent retaliation to avenge Mr Terre'Blanche death," said Pieter Steyn, a general in the AWB.

"We appeal for people to remain calm. Anyone engaging in any form of violence is not doing it as AWB."

Various leaders, including President Jacob Zuma, have also urged calm since the killing. The "Rainbow Nation", already saddled with a reputation for crime and violence, will be in the international spotlight in a little over two months when it hosts the Soccer World Cup.

Just mobilising the right

Whatever the motive, the killing has exposed the racial divide that remains in the country 16 years after the end of apartheid.

Opponents of the ANC accuse its youth leader Julius Malema of stoking racial tension through rhetoric and his singing of an apartheid-era song containing the words "Kill the boer" - now banned by the courts as hate speech.

Malema was in Zimbabwe over the weekend, where he praised President Robert Mugabe's seizures of land from white farmers to give to landless blacks, a policy which critics say has helped to ruin Zimbabwe.

Malema told reporters in Zimbabwe that the song was not a factor in Terre'Blanche's murder.

"We have nothing to do with his death. People are just mobilising the right wing against us and trying to intimidate us," he said after meeting Mugabe.

"Let them go and find the criminals who killed him."

The ANC also condemned the linking of the song to Terre'Blanche's death. "Any claim that blacks intend to harm other race groups... is baseless and devoid of all truth," the party said in a statement.

Emotions high

South Africa's Rand largely shrugged off news of Terre'Blanche's killing, and one analyst said other financial markets would probably follow suit.

"I do not think the markets are going to be significantly moved by what's happened in South Africa, by the killing of Eugene Terre'Blanche," said analyst Nic Borain of HSBC Securities.

"Eugene Terre'Blanche (was) a minor figure and I think in many ways had become more minor and less germane to where South Africa is going."

Johannesburg's stock market was closed on Monday for the Easter holiday.

Terre'Blanche had lived in relative obscurity since his release from prison in 2004 after serving a sentence for beating a black man nearly to death.

His supporters drove from around South Africa on Monday to lay flowers at the gate of his farm in Ventersdorp, over 100km west of Johannesburg.

Evidently angry, many of the mourners would not speak to reporters. One brought a large white teddy bear. Police kept watch from cars to prevent any trouble.

"Emotions are running very high at the moment," said Andre Nienaber, a relative of Terre'Blanche.

Potential flashpoints this week include the court appearance on Tuesday of the two men accused of the killing, and Terre'Blanche's burial on Friday.

Afrikaner groups say anger in white agricultural communities has been growing because of a series of farm murders.

"Unfortunately if the government is not seen to do something very serious and effective now, people are going to take the law into their own hands," Dan Roodt of the Pro-Afrikaans Action Group told etv.