South Africa: Will Killing of White Supremacist Trigger Racial Violence?

As South Africa gets ready to host the World Cup, the killing of far-right white supremacist leader, Eugene Terreblanche, could not come at a worse time. Today, President Zuma called for calm after Terreblanche was found hacked to death by machete on his farm in the country’s Northwest. The 69-year-old leader of the white supremacist group Afrikaans Resistance Movement (AWB) fought to preserve apartheid in the 1990s.

The police found Terreblanche dead with facial and head injuries, a machete on his body and a heavy knob-headed stick nearby. The police has arrested two men, aged 21 and 15, who were Terreblanche’s farm workers. The two men said they had an argument with Terreblanche over not having been paid for work done on the farm.

While President Zuma urged all South Africans to remain calm, some opposition parties warned that the far-right leader’s killing had created a potentially explosive situation. Terreblanche supporters are organized as a militia; they wear khaki uniforms and the AWB has a swastika-like symbol, which is displayed on their flag (see photo). In the 1990s, the AWB violently opposed South Africa’s all-race democracy and campaigned for autonomous white states. Their campaign included bomb attacks ahead of the 1994 elections that ended the white minority apartheid state.

Terreblanche founded the AWB in 1972. He wanted to create all-white states within South Africa in which blacks would only be allowed as guest workers. Terreblanche threatened to take the country by force if the white government capitulated to the African National Congress (ANC).

Apartheid ended 16 years ago; however, the end of this shameful system did little to address the economic inequality between whites and blacks. Especially in the Northwest, farms remain overwhelmingly in white hands, and violence on farms is very high. Between 1997 and 2007, 1,248 farmers and farm workers were killed, mainly in racial incidents.

Terreblanche’s murder comes amid increased race tensions over a popular song with the refrain “Kill the Boers” which has been adopted by ANC youth leader Julius Malema. Members of Terreblanche’s AWB are calling his murder a “declaration of war” by blacks against whites, and Andre Visagie, AWB’s secretary-general said the AWB would “avenge Terreblanche’s death.”

“We will decide upon our actions to avenge Mr. Terreblanche’s death. We will take actions which will be decided upon at our conference,” Visagie told Agence France Presse.

Members of the AWB are Afrikaners, the descendants of the Boers, the first white settlers who arrived¬† 300 years ago in South Africa. Their short-lived republic in Transvaal and Northern Natal was broken-up after the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer war. The AWB has had a revival since 2008, and Terreblanche’s death might reopen old wounds and exacerbate racial tensions again in South Africa.

 

 

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