News / Africa

Farm Murder, Anti-Apartheid Song Stoke Racial Tensions in South Africa


Scott Bobb

In South Africa, racial tensions have been heightened in some sectors of society following the murder of white supremacist leader Eugene Terre'Blanche.  Two black farm workers have been charged with his murder, but Terre'Blanche's supporters blame the killing on what they say is hate speech by the youth leader of the ruling African National Congress.

The killing of the leader of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), Eugene Terre'Blanche, drew thousands of sympathizers from across South Africa to his funeral in this conservative farm community in Northwest Province, west of Johannesburg.

Two black farm workers were charged with murder amidst a tense faceoff between whites and blacks outside the town courthouse.

Most white South Africans reject Terre'Blanche's extreme right-wing views.  But his death brought a show of support for white farmers, who say 3,000 of their group have been killed since the end of apartheid 16 years ago.

Academic studies say most farm murders are criminally motivated.  But Terre'Blanche's supporters like Kurt Helfer say they are meant to drive white farmers from their land, and they accuse the black-led government of doing nothing to stop them.

"We will have to stand together as one nation, especially all the whites, as it looks like all of our lives are in danger.  So we will definitely have to do something," said Helfer.

Some blame Terre'Blanche's murder on the youth leader of the ruling African National Congress, Julius Malema, who recently revived an anti-apartheid song with the refrain, "Shoot the Boer," or white farmer.  ANC senior leaders have told Malema to drop the song.

Emotions were also high in the nearby township, Tshing, where black farm workers were airing their grievances before trade-union leaders.

The workers complain that some white farmers pay them a fraction of the minimum wage, make them work seven days a week, beat them or do not pay them at all.  And they say the government and unions do nothing about it.

Local resident Pule Plaatjie says relations between the races have improved since the end of apartheid, but Terre'Blanche's group has remained racist.

"The relationship between blacks and whites it has been changed.  There [are] many differences.  But really here in Ventersdorp, people, like those who are in the AWB, they do not want to change," noted Plaatjie.

A young leader from the Communist Party, Themba Mbatha, says relations between blacks and whites are better in some ways.

"To a certain degree we have mended our relations," said Mbatha.  "It is easier now to relate with some of the white people.  But at same time it is worse because what happened is that apartheid only died institutionally, in terms of being implemented by government."

Kerwin Lebone of Johannesburg's Institute of Race Relations says centuries of racial conflict could not fade away in the mere 16 years since the end of apartheid.

"Nothing can be worse than what was in the past in [before] 1994.  They are certainly better.  And a lot of things are improving.  It is just that it is our society that has come from such a history of racial hatred that each and every little incident will always be highlighted and blown out of proportion," explained Lebone.

The frictions go beyond rural communities.  In the cities, well-off whites and blacks bunker behind walls fearing criminals in a society with one of the widest gaps between rich and poor in the world.

More than half of young blacks are unemployed.  Yet, young Afrikaners say they cannot find jobs because equal opportunity policies favor the hiring of blacks.

Lebone says much of the tension is due to poverty and rising anger over the lack of improvement in living conditions for most South Africans.  But he says most South Africans do not want conflict.

"There will never be another race war in South Africa," added Lebone.  "I think people have learned from the past and we respect each other enough [too much] to go back to the horror of the past."

He concludes that despite the legacy of racial hatred in the country, most South Africans want to live together in peace.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs