News / Africa

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

Multimedia

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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs