Malema rejects 'shoot the boer' claims

2010-04-04 17:40

Ventersdorp - A top member of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging said on Sunday the murder of AWB leader Eugene Terre'Blanche was "a declaration of war" by blacks against whites.

This as President Jacob Zuma appealed for calm amid growing racial tensions in the country.

AWB spokesperson Andre Visagie said the group would avenge Terre'Blanche's murder, but did not give details.

"The death of Mr Terre'Blanche is a declaration of war by the black community of South Africa to the white community that has been killed for ten years on end," Visagie said.  

He echoed other members of the group in blaming a fiery youth leader for spreading hate speech that he believes led to Terre-Blanche's murder.

The ruling African National Congress disputed Visagie's statement.

Terrible deed - Zuma

"The black community has never declared war on any other nationality in South Africa," ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu told The Associated Press. "It is in fact incorrect and these are sentiments that fuel polarisation of the South African populace."

President Jacob Zuma appealed for calm following "this terrible deed". In a statement, he asked "South Africans not to allow agent provocateurs to take advantage of this situation by inciting or fuelling racial hatred".

Terre'Blanche's violent death - police said he was bludgeoned to death by two of his farm workers in an apparent wage dispute - also heightened the din around an ongoing controversy over ANC Youth Leader Julius Malema's performance last month of an apartheid-era song that advocates killing white farmers.

Malema on Sunday denied responsibility, during an official visit to neighbouring Zimbabwe.

"ANC will respond to that issue," he said "On a personal capacity, I'm not going to respond to what people are saying. I'm in Zimbabwe now. I'm not linked to this."

Farm murders

But an unknown number of white farmers have been killed since the end of apartheid in 1994, many of them in land disputes. Some critics blame the government's badly organised land reform programme and allege that corruption is a problem.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa appealed for calm and asked the public to not make assumptions about the crime.

"We call on all South Africans, across whatever divide ... to desist from making any inflammatory statements which are not going to help in any way on the case we are dealing with," said Mthethwa, who visited the crime scene.

"Nobody should obstruct us by what he or she says pertaining to this case. We want to get to the bottom of this case and we want nobody to obstruct the police in getting justice."

Relatives and friends of Terre'Blanche gathered near his home on Sunday morning to pay their respects.

The opposition Democratic Alliance party blamed increasing racial tensions for the killing.

"This happened in a province where racial tension in the rural farming community is increasingly being fuelled by irresponsible racist utterances" by two members of the governing African National Congress, said the Democratic Alliance legislator for that constituency, Juanita Terblanche.

Terblanche, no relative of Terre'Blanche, said her party did not share his political convictions but warned that the attack on him could be seen as an attack on the diverse components of South Africa's democracy.

Terre'Blanche had threatened war on South Africa's white minority government in the 1980s when it began to make what he considered dangerous concessions to blacks that endangered the survival of South Africa's white race.

Symbol of white resistance

A symbol of white resistance to democratic black majority rule, he had lived in relative obscurity in recent years but had not changed his views.

He revived the AWB in 2008 and had rallies that drew growing crowds whom he wooed with his declaration that white South Africans are entitled to create their own country, a fight he declared he would take to the International Court at The Hague.

An AWB member who said his name was Commandant Pieter Steyn noted the aptness of Terre'Blanche's name, which in French translates to "white land".

Steyn said the name is a common name among South African descendants of Dutch Huguenot settlers, and that Terre'Blanche was born with the name.

Steyn wore a khaki uniform which read "100% Boer." The uniform also had a patch of South Africa's apartheid-era flag.

Terre'Blanche launched his political career in 1973 amid growing opposition to the white minority government and its racist policies, forming the AWB with six other "patriots" of the Afrikaans-speaking whites descended from Dutch immigrants. The group wanted to create three all-white republics within South Africa in which blacks would be allowed only as guest workers.

Charismatic leader

The AWB was a semi-secret organisation for years. When it "came out" in 1979, the movement displayed Nazi-like insignia and declared opposition to any parliamentary democracy.

Terre'Blanche would arrive at meetings on horseback flanked by masked bodyguards dressed in khaki or black and became a charismatic leader for a small minority that could not envision a South Africa under the democratic rule of a black majority.

In 1983, Terre'Blanche was sentenced to a two-year suspended jail sentence for illegal arms possession, though he said the arms were planted by black opponents. The same year, two AWB militants were jailed for 15 years for conspiring to overthrow the government and assassinate black leaders.

Terre'Blanche finally was jailed in 1997, sentenced to six years for the attempted murder of a black security guard and assaulting a black gas station worker.

He became a born-again Christian in prison, and declared on his release in 2004 that his experience had convinced him that "the real hour to revive the resistance had arrived".

Terre'Blanche threatened to take the country by force if the white government capitulated to the ANC.

After the white government conceded, the ANC overwhelmingly won 1994 elections and has won every election since with more than 60% of votes.