Dark times for White Supremacy in South Africa

Brutal murder of extreme Nationalist leaves Afrikaners feeling even more embattled.

April 4, 2010 17:08
Eugene Terreblanche

Eugene Terreblanche 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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The brutal slaying of South Africa’s long-time bête noire and chief white supremacist, Afrikaner extreme right leader Eugene Terreblanche, at the hands of his black farm hands, could not have occurred with more sinister timing, coming at the height of a campaign by the head of the ANC Youth League, an outspoken and powerful black politician, fighting for his right to publicly sing a famous anti-Apartheid struggle song called “Shoot the Boer.”

Terreblanche, 69, far from going out the way he always said he would, on his feet and in battle with the enemies of his Volk (people), wasn’t shot in a gunbattle. He was first beaten to a pulp by a knopkierie (an African club with a large knob on one end used to smash skulls) and then hacked to pieces by a machete. And he wasn’t on his feet; he was lying in bed, taking a nap.

With the controversy of the song “Shoot the Boer” ringing across the land, even though the highest court in the land forbade it, Terreblanche was cut down in what his followers can only see as a brutal vindication of his racist positions.

Had he been given the chance to comment on his own demise, Terreblanche, whose name in French translates to “White Land” would have probably said, “See, I told you so.”

Modeling everything from the symbol of his flag to his own oratory style and wardrobe on Hitler’s Nazi party, Terreblanche made a career out of dehumanizing blacks, warning his white Afrikaner followers of the Black Danger, the barbarian at the gates, the beast that was coming to kill the men, take their land and rape their women. Ridiculed by the majority of the country as an eccentric (he was nicknamed ET) has-been, he was nonetheless the undisputed leader of a segment of the Afrikaner population who could not, would not, come to terms with the multi-racial democratic reality that is post-Apartheid South Africa.

Terreblanche’s stated goal throughout his political career as leader of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement), or AWB, was to secede and establish an independent state for the Afrikaners that would follow him there, a Boerestaat. While Police said Sunday the murder was not politically motivated but rather the result of a pay dispute between Terreblanche and two of his farm workers, there is little doubt that his murder will reverberate politically across the country, and especially within the embattled white Afrikaner farming community, where it will shine a stark light on their grievances and growing schism with the ruling ANC and the state.

While very few in the mainstream of the “Rainbow Nation” will miss Terreblanche (he hated everyone who wasn’t a white, heterosexual Afrikaner farmer), many South Africans are quietly concerned that Terreblanche’s murder is another signpost in the country’s accelerating transformation into a deeply divided and troubled land.

While there is no official reaction from the organized Jewish community, which Terreblanche viewed much as Hitler’s Nazi party did, and who the Jews in turn viewed as utterly despicable, there is a sense of empathy and identification with the Afrikaner sector of society, and a growing unease about the country’s future.

Over the past decade, Afrikaners have felt increasingly embattled, sidelined from the political process, discriminated against in all socio-economic fields and culturally blotted out from the otherwise rich South African cultural tapestry. Terreblanche’s murder also comes after years of attacks against white farmers, and, more immediately, an increase in official government statements regarding land reforms that could see white farmers dispossessed of their land. While not quite the chaotic and destructive Zimbabwe model of land “redistribution” yet, Afrikaners are feeling that their backs are very quickly being pushed up against the wall.

And one need not look too far back into history to see what Afrikaners do when they feel cornered: they turn inwards, they circle the wagons, [the so-called “Kraal Mentality” of the Great Trek], take out their guns, and start fighting back. The question on many people’s minds now is what will become of the extreme Right in South Africa? Will the growing bitterness of the Afrikaner Right, and their increasing marginalization and looming possible dispossession, lead to a violent backlash?

Politically, this sector is not making any headway against the strong ANC, and the weak, divided opposition political parties will never publicly come out in support of the Afrikaner right wing. While the vast majority of Afrikaners are moderate, God-fearing and law abiding people, there is a growing sense of disentitlement, and a growing identification by many whites in the country with the maligned Boer.

Terreblanche’s AWB was never a potent political or military force. According to its own count, at the height of its popularity it had some 70,000 members. It is hard to gauge how many members the AWB has now and how easy it is to recruit new blood as the organization itself went into hibernation together with its charismatic leader over the past several years. Indeed, since his release from prison on serious assault charges (he beat a black gas station attendant to within an inch of his life) in 2004, Terreblanche was almost entirely silent. It was only this past December that the AWB, together with smaller white supremacist groups, held a meeting at which it was decided to reactivate themselves. It is too early to say what impact Terreblanche’s murder will have on the political fortunes of the Afrikaner nationalist camp.
While his organization did manage to mount several disparate, and desperate, terror attacks against state infrastructure and personnel, which also led to some death and injury, the AWB never had the staying power or massive grassroots support of a true guerrilla movement. But increasingly, Afrikaners have come to see the state as ineffective, and sometimes even complicit in the murder of white farmers and the growing campaign to “redistribute” their farms. This dovetails with the widespread feeling across all sectors of society that the ANC government is quickly losing its grip on law and order. Most, if not all, of the farming families across the country have firearms, and they know how to use them. Boer children learn from a very early age how to hunt, and how to protect the farmstead from predators. They’re a tough, proud people, with a long history of fighting for what they believe in, and they are on the whole bitterly unhappy.

With the country already reeling from out-of-control violent crime, the last thing South African President Jacob Zuma wants now is a violent insurgency led by hard-core, army-trained, angry white supremacists setting South Africa ablaze on the eve of the World Cup. That’s why Zuma, himself a former ANC armed-wing resistance fighter and no fan of the AWB, on Sunday called for calm among the Afrikaners and even phoned Terreblanche’s family to offer his condolences. That’s why he sent the chief of police and Minister of Police to Terreblanche’s home town of Ventersdorp to visit the family and hold a press conference to vow that “the case will be cracked.”

The AWB itself, in a statement released Sunday, blamed the murder on ANC Youth League president Julius Malema for his campaign of incitement, and called on its supporters, friends and members to “stay calm for now while we mourn our leader.”

“Our leader’s death is directly linked to [ANC Youth League president] Julius Malema’s ‘kill the Boer’ song,” an AWB spokesman said.
The AWB also said it would hold a conference with all its members at the beginning of May to decide on “what actions we will take to revenge Terreblanche’s death.”

The main message posted on right-wing Afrikaner internet forums is a call for unity in the ranks, for Afrikaners to stick together “until final victory,” and for moderation and cool heads to prevail, with one internet user saying the Afrikaners should not sing “Kill the Blacks.”

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