Tracking down ET’s ghost

Change? I see no change. The whites are still in the front of the bakkie and the blacks in the back, says Sipho Laka (41), who owns a shop on one of the dusty streets of Ventersdorp, the North West town best known as the headquarters of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) and its slain leader, Eugene Terre’Blanche (ET).

He sells an exotic range of fong-kong merchandise. He does not believe that ET’s murder a year ago had any effect on the lives of Ventersdorp’s black residents.

He says: “Here you earn R20 a day. And it’s no use objecting. They (whites) will tell you: ‘Go to the ANC if you want a job. This is my job and this is what I pay.’”

In another Ventersdorp emporium, this one selling antiques, two white women concur. “For me the town is the same,” says the owner, declining to give her name.

“I get along with everybody. One must smile and be friendly. Blacks and whites buy here.”

But she does open a drawer to produce a treasure – an ET poster, featuring a younger AWB leader at a time when he still had the ability to put the fear of death into people.

“I liked him a lot”, she says. “I know his wife as well.”

His house, she adds, has become a tourist attraction. Some people passing through Ventersdorp ask for his address at the shop.

“You know,” she says, “the house where the ossewa stands on the stoep? It is still there. People want to see it.”

The other lady at the shop, a nurse, says: “Ventersdorp is full of k*****s, rich farmers, very rich farmers, farmers who drink themselves to death, and bums.”

White people, she continues, are “poer in hulle moer (dead and gone) because they don’t stick to their traditions and their opinions, and are incapable of sensible reasoning and are always gesuip (drunk)”.

Blacks hated whites, she explains, “because of what happened in the past”. And “whites caused it” by doing awful things to blacks. And the hate is spreading, she says.

Nobody takes notice of the AWB any more, says Johan Hartzenberg, a farmer.

“There is just a small group of AWBs in Ventersdorp. The media is blowing the matter up,” he says.

According to him, farmers have good relationships with their workers. “Here and there you find a ‘hardegat’ (stubborn person) with too much money. This is the type who smiles when he comes to town, but when he is on the farm, he treats his people flippen badly,” says Hartzenberg.

Farm worker Ephraim Gefto says his colleagues are still underpaid. “They will tell you you can go to the CCMA, they don’t care, they have enough money to pay penalties,” he says.

On a Ventersdorp farm, he adds, R1 000 a month is an exceptionally good salary, “but then you have to work long hours and do what you are told”.

Two women at the liquor store where ET and members of his Ystergarde purchased their Klippies and Coke, declare: “Everything is just as quiet and peaceful as it always was. We have peace and quiet. Goodbye.”

Ventersdorp’s Independent Electoral Commission office, which is organising 32 polling booths for the area’s 19?558 registered voters, is a hive of frantic activity.

Office head Ida Diamond reckons that ET’s death is not on the town’s radar. “It is as quiet as if there was no court case. It is boring,” she says.

Leaning against one of Ventersdorp’s Afrikaner monuments, an arch honouring Voortrekker leader Hendrik Potgieter, municipal worker Steven Motlhabana grins: “I like Malema, too much! And Malema does not want to kill the boers.”

Most of Ventersdorp’s white residents, according to municipal worker Jacon Williams, have learnt “to get along with us” since ET died. Only a few are still racist and rude.

Aubrey Tsobane (20) sits in the shade at the Andries Pretorius arch eating a chicken leg.

“I see the same things that used to be. Life is like before. We have the same lack of employment,” he says.

Port Mangala (63) has worked in Ventersdorp for many years. “It was apartheid. It was k*****s. But his murder, it was wrong,” he says.

The murder might not have affected Ventersdorp much, says Mangala, but he fears that “we will be like Mugabe because the whites will go away”.

He continues, saying: “If white people go, we’ll die of hunger. The AWB was right.”

» This week, the case against Terre’Blanche’s alleged killers was postponed to October

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