Analysts warn of retaliation

2010-04-05 10:16

Cape Town -The killing of far-right leader Eugene Terre'Blanche could tempt isolated retaliation from white extremists, amid fears of flaring racial tensions, analysts say.

The attack came as South Africa's readied to showcase 16 years of democracy at the football World Cup in June.

President Jacob Zuma was quick to call for calm early on Sunday, just hours after Terre'Blanche's bloodied body was found on his farm.

His extremist AWB, which carried out a wave of deadly bombings ahead of South Africa's first all-race polls in 1994, also urged calm.

The AWB, known for its swastika-style emblem and paramilitary style in the past, said it would co-ordinate its reaction at a meeting on May 1.

But some of its members have called for an immediate reprisal.

"The right-wing movement in general is very fragmented," said analyst Dirk Kotze at the University of South Africa.

"We cannot expect something as a general retaliation in terms of big, major events."

But he added: "What might be a possibility is very much isolated, singular events which are very exceptionally difficult to predict."

Aubrey Matshiqi of the Centre for Policy Studies, which describes itself as an independent policy research body, agreed.

"I do not believe this killing takes us closer to racial civil war," saiid Matshiqi.

"He and his organisation were on the fringe not only of South African politics but on the fringe of even what we'd call white or even Afrikaner politics."

AWB links death to song

Terre'Blanche's radical AWB group have linked his killing to a controversial refrain from a sung adopted by the controversial ruling party youth leader Julius Malema: "kill the Boer", the Afrikaans word for farmer.

Outraged critics claim the slogan, recently banned in two court rulings, incites anti-white violence.

Zuma's ruling African National Congress (ANC) has said the song is part of the the history of South Africa's liberation struggle.

Nevertheless, the controversy over the song and now Terre'Blanche's brutal killing had created a delicate situation, said David Bruce, a senior researcher at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

"The combination of that song and that killing creates the motivation for a white right-wing mobilisation... but potentially, the security agencies will be able to neutralise these kind of things," he said.

"Terre'Blanche could be seen as an embodiment of the kind of enemy described in the song," he said: but the term was also likely to tap into fears of whites, who number some 10% of the population.

"The term Boer has no strict boundary: it can refer to the white farmers, to the Afrikaners or to the whites in general. That's what makes a lot of people afraid," said Bruce.

"A lot of people see in that song a general endorsement of violence against white people."

Marginalised presence

South Africa is one of the world's most crime-affected nations with a daily average of 50 murders.

And more than a decade after the fall of the apartheid system, massive social divisions along race lines persist.

Far-right extremism remains a marginalised but shady presence: a marathon treason trial against 21 right-wingers, which started in 2003, is still dragging through the courts.

The government's calls for calm after Terre'Blanche's killing, echoed by opposition parties, was prompted by uncertainty about conservative reaction or retaliation, said Kotze.

"That can ignite, it can serve as a catalyst for much more serious problems."

Zuma on Sunday urged politicians to show unity, saying it was their responsibility to "stay away from statements that might reverse nation building and racial cohesion".

"It is a key test for the leadership of Jacob Zuma: he has to make minority groups feel more secure and to distance himself from Malema," said political analyst Daniel Silke.

"If Zuma shows leadership, then we will avoid retaliation or an escalation of violence."