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Racial Tensions High in South Africa Day After Terre’Blanche Murder Suspects Arraigned

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Joe DeCapua

Racial tensions remain high in South Africa following the recent murder of white supremacist Eugene Terre’Blanche.

Wednesday, the ruling ANC party issued a statement urging restraint among its members.

Thousands of people showed up at the court house Tuesday when two blacks – a 15-year-old boy and a man in his late 20s – were arraigned in the bludgeoning death.  Both had worked for Terre’Blanche.  

“Tensions are quite high in certain sections of the population at the moment,” says VOA reporter Delia Robertson in Johannesburg.

Color divide

“On the right, of course, there’s a lot of anger at Mr. Terre’Blanche’s murder.  And the AWB, or the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, which is the organization he founded, is once again today threatening to avenge his death,” she says.

Eugene Terreblanche at start of his 2001 assault trial. He was convicted and served 3 years of a 6 year sentence for assaulting a black security guard
Eugene Terreblanche at start of his 2001 assault trial. He was convicted and served 3 years of a 6 year sentence for assaulting a black security guard

There’s also a lot of anger in many black communities, including many young South Africans.

“They feel that he was a divisive figure and had treated blacks poorly, particularly his employees,” she says.  “And…many of the people that I have spoken to have said one of the biggest issues being discussed in those communities is concern about retaliation.”

Robertson says despite the perception of a unified country following the end of apartheid and the 1994 democratic elections, many social problems have been simmering.

“And it’s particularly caused by failure by some people to recognize that things need to change.  In youthful communities, certainly, it’s been caused by them leaving school and being unable to access jobs and living in poverty and looking a bleak future in the face,” she says.

She says Terre’Blanche’s murder has “exacerbated it.”

Motive?

Police investigators allege the April 3rd killing stemmed from an argument over wages.  The mother of the younger suspect has said they had not been paid, despite repeated requests for the money.

“I think that we need to wait until the trial to determine whether in fact that was the cause, or whether anything else entered into it.  We don’t know,” Robertson says, “whether they had access to newspapers or radios where they might have heard the singing of the song Kill the Boer by ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.  We just don’t know what their state of mind was at the time, accepting that they seem to have been extremely angry given the type of assault that occurred.”

The courts have ordered Malema to refrain from singing the song out of concern that it could incite violence.

AWB

While Terre’Blanche was widely heard from during the apartheid years, he had not been in the media nearly as much since 1994.  But that may have been about to change.

“Just a few months ago,” Robertson says, “he announced that he was going to revive the AWB and that they would be holding meetings to do that.  And that they were going to launch a program working toward an independent country for Afrikaners.  But it’s unclear how far that had progressed.”

She adds, “The AWB movement had essentially sort of disintegrated.  Now people are coalescing a bit.  But once again it remains to be seen by just how much they will regroup.”  

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