Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 16:58 UK

Eugene Terreblanche: Love and hate

Supporters of slain white supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche, salute the coffin as it leaves the church in Ventersdorp, South Africa, Friday, April 9, 2010.

Pumza Fihlani
BBC News, Ventersdorp

Eugene Terreblanche will be remembered by many in South Africa as a staunch defender of apartheid.

His funeral has left some wondering if his followers will intensify their fight for segregation or if his death is truly the end of one of the country's most painful eras.

As songs and salutes to him filled the air, Mr Terreblanche's body lay in a pine coffin.

What did the world not know about Eugene Terreblanche, that all the thousands of Afrikaners here know about him?

A man whose huge figure towered over his followers and enemies alike was driven out of the grounds of the Afrikaans Protestant Church in a white hearse in the north-western town of Ventersdorp, where thousands had paid their final respects.

It is difficult to believe that a man who had struck fear into the hearts of many black people and who was revered by many right-wing Afrikaners was gone.

He was buried on the family farm, some 10km from the town where Mr Terreblanche had lived since his release from prison, after serving a three-year term for the attempted murder of a farm worker.


This is also where he was killed, allegedly by two of his employees over a wage dispute.

Terreblanche's killing has unearthed racial tensions in the small town - tensions which are a rarely spoken fact of life in many South African rural farming communities.

A supporter of Mr Terreblanche holds up his picture beneath a cross
He was crucified like Jesus Christ because he spoke the truth about those people
Terreblanche supporter

Some 3,000 farmers have been killed since apartheid ended in 1994.

Members of Terreblanche's Afrikaner Resistance movement (AWB) say the murders are racially motivated; that blacks are carrying out a "genocide" against them.

Black farm workers argue that the attacks are mostly driven by the racist treatment they face at the hands of their white employers - unemployment is high here, so many put up with an abusive employer rather than losing their job - until they finally snap.

Less than a week after he was killed, AWB members remain angry and bitter, some threatening to avenge his death.

The fondness with which they spoke of Terreblanche left me puzzled.

I did not know the man they spoke about - it seems incomprehensible that this was the same man the world had come to know as a white supremacist.

Love and hate

Many described him as a "friend", a "righteous man" and a "loving and gentle man".

"He was crucified like Jesus Christ because he spoke the truth about those people," said a young man carrying a photo of Terreblanche and a white cross, with the old, apartheid-era South African flag tied to it.

Eugene Terreblanche in Pretoria in June 2004
I have lived in this town all my life and heard horrible stories about this man, I came to see for myself that he was really gone

His face was red from crying, but anger still burned in his eyes as he explained why he was here.

It made me wonder how one man could possibly enjoy feelings of love and adoration from one race and breed hatred and disdain in another.

"What did the world not know about Eugene Terreblanche, that all the thousands of Afrikaners here know about him?" I wondered as I watched them weep with their heads bowed, passing each other tissues and extending comforting hugs.

'Pure race'

An Afrikaner teacher, who did not want to give her name told the BBC that while she wanted racial reconciliation, she would have difficulty looking at her black students the same way again after two of "them" had killed the man she adored.

Man cries at Terreblanche funeral
His supporters saw Eugene Terreblanche as a "gentle man"

The crowd at the ceremony was overwhelmingly white, the few black people were either journalists, special guests from the government or members of the local police - it was an almost fitting tribute to the man who had spent his life fighting for "the pure race".

Linda, who refused to give her surname, and her eight-year old son were among the few black people at the ceremony.

"I have lived in this town all my life and heard horrible stories about this man, I came to see for myself that he was really gone," she said.

Linda criticised ANC Youth League president Julius Malema for "causing trouble for us who live here" referring to his recent singing of the apartheid song "Shoot the Boer [farmer]".


This resurrection of a song from the fight against apartheid had already raised the racial temperature in South Africa even before Terreblanche was killed. Some AWB officials said Mr Malema bore responsibility for the killing.


"Malema is not the one who has to stay here in Venterdorp. What he is saying is making things worse for us."

While the ANC insists that it has the right to sing this song, to commemorate its fight against white minority rule, it has since instructed its members to refrain from singing is because they could be "used as scapegoats by people with their own agendas".

A few minutes after the funeral procession left the church, a torrent of rain came down, soaking the ground where thousands had stood, arms raised in a Nazi-style salute to Terreblanche.

It will take more than a storm to wash away the memories of what this man was and continues to be for South Africa - a symbol of division in a nation struggling to unify after years of white minority rule.

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