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South African Leaders Appeal for Calm After White Supremacist Killed

A supporter of African far-right leader Euguene Terre'Blanche looks at flowers and pays tribute in front of the entrance of the farm in Ventersdorp, 05 Apr 2010

In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma and opposition leaders are appealing for calm after the murder of a white supremacist leader. The killing appears to have been over a wage dispute, but opposition leaders warn that inflammatory statements by a leader of the ruling African National Congress are aggravating tensions in the country.

South African President Jacob Zuma Sunday condemned the murder of white supremacist leader Eugene Terre'Blanche, who was killed (Saturday) on his farm northwest of Johannesburg.

Mr. Zuma, in a statement, appealed for calm and urged his countrymen to resist letting the incident fuel racial hatred.

Police say the 69 year-old Terre'Blanche was bludgeoned to death following a wage dispute with two of his workers. They said both men had been arrested.

Terre'Blanche in 1973 founded the Afrikaaner Resistance Movement, known as the AWB, that sought to maintain white-dominance in apartheid South Africa.

The AWB opposed the negotiations that brought black-majority rule and staged bomb attacks during the run-up to national elections in 1994. Terre'Blanche served three years in prison after being convicted in 2001 of brutally assaulting a black gas-station attendant.

In recent years he sought to create a whites-only republic in South Africa.

South Africa's Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa met Sunday with the late farmer's family and sought to dispel attempts by reporters to link the murder to Terre'Blanche's extreme racial views.

"This is a sensitive matter. A human being is dead. I think we should respect that and we should give the police time to do their job," Mtetwa said.

He warned against fanning racial flames. Opposition leaders unanimously condemned the murder, but noted that racial tensions have been heightened recently by controversial statements by some leaders in the ruling African National Congress.

Two South African courts recently banned the use of the song, Kill the Boer, or white farmer, which has been adopted as a rally signature by the head of the ANC's youth wing, Julius Malema. The ANC says the song is part of its anti-apartheid struggle and is appealing the ruling.

The Freedom Front Plus party is one of the groups that brought the court action.

Its spokesman, Pieter Groenewald, told national radio that the murder of Terre'Blanche was not directly connected to the song. But he said the song was inflammatory.

"There is also responsibility on all political leaders to combat violence in South Africa," Groenewald said. "And we feel that the first step would be for President Zuma to publicly condemn inciting songs which could create the climate violence."

He appealed for people to refrain from reacting irresponsibly to the killing. The AWB also appealed for calm but vowed revenge.