Sun, Apr 11, 2010 - Page 13 News List

Anger and resentment as white right-wing leader laid to rest



After a violent life and violent death, Eugene Terre’Blanche was laid to rest in peace on Friday as family members threw petals on his coffin. But there was every sign that the white South African’s extremist views have not been buried with him.

At a funeral service Terre’Blanche’s coffin was defiantly draped in the flag of his far-right Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), the swastika-style insignia and blood red surround reminiscent of the Nazis.

Just before noon the coffin was borne into church by burly but pot-bellied men in green berets and brown shirts with “Boerkcommandos” epaulettes. The congregation burst into a passionate rendition of the apartheid-era national anthem, Die Stem, and some gave Nazi-style salutes.

The casket, topped with a red and white floral wreath, was placed beneath the pulpit alongside a framed photograph of Terre’Blanche, a man who once threatened to wage war rather than allow black rule, riding his beloved horse like a Boer Napoleon.

Then came an angry but somber two-hour service in a packed church, deep in farming country, where black mourners could have been counted on one hand. As the pious congregation raised their arms and sang hymns in Afrikaans, the language descended from Dutch settlers, it was easy to believe that this was a sepia-tinted bubble in which democracy and Nelson Mandela never happened.

This community’s long-simmering resentments have been focused by the bloody killing of Terre’Blanche in his bed last weekend. He was found beaten so badly that his face was unrecognizable, and his trousers had been pulled down to expose his genitals. Two black farm workers have been charged with murder.

Terre’Blanche was the talisman of hardline opposition to the end of racial apartheid in the early 1990s. But he had been in relative obscurity since his release in 2004 after a prison sentence for beating a black man nearly to death.

Several police and army units had been deployed in Ventersdorp, North West province, to ensure there was no repeat of the scuffles between black and white protesters outside court three days earlier. Officers could be seen patrolling in body armor and helicopters flew overhead.

Mourners rose before dawn and traveled from all over South Africa. There were camouflage-clad men carrying pistols and little girls in their Sunday best. There were men on motorbikes in Hell’s Angels-style black leather jackets. There were also many cars and pick-up trucks flying the pre-1994 national flag.

Jan Bosch, 52, from Vanderbijlpark, had left home at 5am. “I’ve been close to Eugene and in his heart many times,” he said. “In his heart he was a good person. He was a great leader of our people.”

But this was a tale of two nations. The aggressive pilgrimage was watched with curiosity and consternation by black people living in roadside shacks and working in shops and at petrol stations.

“They must take their flags and go and wash their faces with them,” said Selow Tshukamane, 43, a teacher, leaning against the window of a convenience store. “There’s still a lot of tension here. Terre’Blanche treated us as dogs so we can’t feel for him.”

Some public insults were traded, with white people shouting the highly offensive term “kaffirs.” Some mourners, dressed in combat fatigues, muttered “housemaid” in Afrikaans when a black politician paying official respects walked past.

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