Monday, 5 April 2010

South Africa tension grows after Terreblanche killing

Tension is growing in South Africa after the killing of white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche, with President Jacob Zuma calling for national unity.

Mr Zuma called on political leaders to think before making public statements.

The remnants of Mr Terreblanche's AWB party said the killing was a "declaration of war" and vowed revenge.

It blames Julius Malema, head of the ruling ANC's Youth League, for inflammatory actions, including singing a song about killing white farmers.

Mr Terreblanche, 69, was attacked on Saturday evening at home on his farm near the town of Ventersdorp, North West province.

'Sad moments'

Mr Zuma knows that such a prominent killing could rapidly trigger racial violence, if not handled sensitively, says the BBC's Karen Allen in Johannesburg.

He was quick to condemn the attack amid criticism that he had failed to rein in the ANC Youth League.

The president went on television on Sunday to condemn what he said was a "cowardly" murder.

He said he had spoken to Mr Terreblanche's daughter and hoped to speak to the leader's wife in order to convey his condolences.

"This is one of the sad moments for our country that a leader of his standing should be murdered," said Mr Zuma.

He said that South Africans must not let anyone take advantage of the "terrible deed" by inciting racial hatred.

The AWB (Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, or Afrikaner Resistance Movement) echoed Mr Zuma's call for calm as relatives and friends of Mr Terreblanche gathered near his home to pay their respects on Sunday.

But the far-right movement's secretary general, Andre Visagie, said Mr Terreblanche's killing had political overtones.

"The next step for the AWB will be to bury their leader in peace, but thereafter we shall avenge the death of our leader," he said.

"Of course we do blame Julius Malema," Mr Visagie told the BBC.

"The death of Mr Terreblanche is a declaration of war by the black community of South Africa to the white community that has been killed for 10 years on end."

He said there was "fierce anger" among AWB members. "They all call for revenge for Eugene Terreblanche's death," he said.

He said some some members advocated violent retribution, but he encouraged them to wait until actions could be co-ordinated "right across the country".

More than 3,000 white farmers are estimated to have been murdered since the end of apartheid in 1994.

A committee of inquiry found in 2003 only 2% of farm attacks had a political or racial motive, although critics said this figure was far too low.

Last week, South Africa's High Court banned Mr Malema from singing the racially charged apartheid-era song with the words "kill the Boer". It ruled the song was hate speech, although the ANC is appealing.

Boer is Afrikaans for a farmer, but is sometimes used as a disparaging term for any white in South Africa.

Mr Malema denied responsibility during his official visit to Zimbabwe.

"The ANC will respond to that issue. On a personal capacity, I'm not going to respond to what people are saying. I'm in Zimbabwe now, I'm not linked to this."

South Africa is a nation still nursing racial wounds from the past, our correspondent says, and in some quarters there is nervousness about the future.

Ventersdorp has already seen some heated racial exchanges since the killing.

"A black guy killed a white guy. Obviously it's going to stir a lot of trouble," said Kgomotso Kgamanyane, a cashier at a local petrol station.

"Just earlier a customer came in, a white guy, and he told us to go to hell," he told AFP news agency. "It could get violent, because whites in their minds they think that we did it because of hate."

'Sad day'

Police have arrested and charged two male farm workers - aged 21 and 15 - who they say beat Mr Terreblanche to death in a dispute over wages.

Mr Terreblanche had founded the white supremacist AWB in 1973, to oppose what he regarded as the liberal policies of the then-South African government.

His party tried terrorist tactics and threatened civil war in the run-up to South Africa's first democratic elections, before sliding into relative obscurity.

Mr Terreblanche served three years in jail after being convicted in 2001 of the attempted murder of a farm worker.
source: BBC NEWS

(in: Mocambique hoje)

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