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Anger and anxiety after Terreblanche murder

Followers of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) leader Eugene Terreblanche gather near Ventersdrop, 140km West of Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday April 4, 2010
Terreblanche followers once sought to terrorise but now say they are victimised

The murder of white supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche has sent shock waves across South Africa and prompted nervous calls for calm. In the town of Ventersdorp many are angry at what they say is a climate in which violence against Afrikaners is encouraged, as the BBC's Karen Allen reports.

This murder has the power to unleash the demons of deep-seated racial hatred that have bedevilled this country for three centuries.

There have been more than 3,000 murders of Afrikaner farmers in remote homesteads like this since the end of apartheid 16 years ago.

But from the moment I arrived in Ventersdorp it was clear this was no ordinary farm murder.

Police had suddenly been drafted in numbers to assist the investigation and a wave of journalists had descended on this small town this Easter Sunday.

'Kill the Boer' song

The potentially explosive impact of this killing was also clear from the appearance of the police minister and his commissioner of police, who arrived early and took charge of the murder investigation.

TERREBLANCHE: KEY DATES
Eugene Terreblanche in Pretoria in June 2004
1941: Born on farm in Transvaal town of Ventersdorp
1973: Co-founds AWB to protect rights of Boers' descendants
1993: AWB vehicle smashes into World Trade Centre in Jo'burg during talks to end apartheid
1994: AWB invades tribal homeland of Bophuthatswana and is defeated; three AWB men die
1998: Accepts moral blame for 1994 bombings that killed 21
2001: Jailed for attempted murder of farm-worker
2004: Released from prison

Both men took great pains to point out that this murder was a simple case involving two of Mr Terreblanche's farm workers, who are accused of attacking him in a dispute over their wages and bludgeoning him to death.

They will appear in court charged with the murder on Tuesday.

But the very presence of South Africa's two top law enforcement officials and President Zuma's early appeal for calm after the murder were further indications that everyone in South Africa knows that this is not an "open and shut case".

Eugene Terreblanche's farm stands on rich agricultural land at the end of a long field. The farmhouse itself lies in a copse of trees deep in what South Africans call the Platteland, those flat fertile farming acres which stretch all the way north to the Botswanan border.

There is now police tape at the entrance to the farm and a stream of police, journalists and mourners mill around seeking to know more about what happened inside on Saturday night, and fearful of what may follow in the wake of this murder.

It comes at a time of tension when Afrikaner farmers have objected in the courts to ANC Youth League chief Julius Malema singing in public the old struggle song "Kill the Boer".

They say the constant refrain of this song which dates from apartheid times incites people to kill white farmers. For its part the ANC and Julius Malema have defended the song as part of the country's historical legacy and therefore legitimate to be sung at public rallies.

Now the debate has taken a more sinister turn.

'Cowardly'

We had a plethora of news conferences in Ventersdorp - first Mr Terreblanche's grief-stricken brother Andries made a statement. The family were gathered in front of a house with an ox wagon parked on the front lawn.

flowers are seen on a gate of the farm of Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) leader Eugene Terreblanche near Ventersdrop, 140km West of Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday April 4, 2010.
Flowers on the gate of Mr Terreblanche's farm

The ox wagon is a symbol of South Africa's white settlers and how they trekked inland from the Cape to found the old Boer republics which were swept away in the Boer War.

Then Johan Potgieter of Mr Terreblanche's Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) said that his leader's murder was related to the "shoot the Boers dead" comments made by Mr Malema. He called on the government to take action to stop what he called cowardly murders of Afrikaner farmers.

Meanwhile, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa was keen to dismiss such linkage between the murder and the recent controversy surrounding Mr Malema's insistence on singing "Kill the Boer" at every public opportunity. Mr Mthethwa told reporters here: "This is a sensitive matter - it is not a political case and we should allow the police time to do their job."

African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema, at a rally in Harare in neighboring Zimbabwe Saturday, April 3, 2010.
Julius Malema defends his right to sing about killing Boers

Another man keen to dismiss linkage between Mr Terreblanche's murder and the "Kill the Boer" song is Julius Malema himself. He is currently in Zimbabwe where he denied responsibility and said: "I'm not going to respond to what people are saying. I'm in Zimbabwe. I'm not linked to this."

But on Saturday at a rally in Harare he defended the song: "We are not allowed to sing liberation songs in South Africa but we are not going to stop. We are prepared to go to jail."

In a reference to last week's court order preventing him from singing the songs on the grounds that it was considered a race-hate crime he commented: "This is the court ruling of the white men in South Africa but we are not going to obey it."

Here in Ventersdorp everyone seems to be blaming him for creating the climate in which violence against Afrikaner farmers is instigated and they are angry - and that's why President Zuma has felt the need to make his appeal for calm as a nervous nation tries to come to terms with the implications of Mr Terreblanche's death.



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SEE ALSO
Calm urged after S Africa killing
04 Apr 10 |  Africa
Obituary: Eugene Terreblanche
04 Apr 10 |  Africa
Life in pictures: Eugene Terreblanche
03 Apr 10 |  In Pictures
Eugene Terreblanche: Your comments
04 Apr 10 |  Africa
ANC fury at apartheid song ban
31 Mar 10 |  Africa
SA's Terreblanche freed from jail
11 Jun 04 |  Africa


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