Monday, October 12, 2009

Eugene Terre’Blanche rises to lead Afrikaner ‘Volk’ again

Arms outstretched, his deep voice resonating around the town hall, the white-bearded speaker summoned the Afrikaner “volk” to battle, with rousing words from the past. “Now is not the time to be afraid,” he shouted, to grumblings of approval from the audience of burly, khaki-clad farmers, their wives and children. “Now all true Afrikaners must reach out to each other and fight to the bitter end.”

Eugene Terre’Blanche, the once-feared white supremacist leader of apartheid South Africa, is back. He is more subdued and circumspect than in his heyday in the 1980s, but his message has not, fundamentally, changed.

He told 300 supporters in this small, rundown farming town on the barren veld about 120 miles (200km) southwest of Johannesburg that he was answering the call of the boers (farmers) and revitalising the Nazi-style Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) to save them from the oppression of the black African National Congress (ANC) Government.

“Our country is being run by criminals who murder and rob. This land was the best, and they ruined it all,” he cried to strong applause, dabbing the spittle off his beard with a neatly pressed handkerchief. “We are being oppressed again. We will rise again.”

As ever, he invoked memories of the Boer War more than a century ago, in which an estimated 26,000 Afrikaners died in concentration camps set up by the British. “We fought the British Commonwealth, we can survive the ANC,” he later told The Times.

Mr Terre’Blanche said that he and his allies had called the meeting in the town hall to bring together 23 far-right groups under the single banner of the AWB. They would take the fight of the “free Afrikaner” to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and demand the right for a separate republic, he said.

Mr Terre’Blanche, 68, has lived in relative obscurity since his release from jail in 2004 after serving a six-year sentence for assaulting a black petrol-pump attendant and for the attempted murder of a security guard. Many thought he had slipped off the political landscape for good; an almost derisory figure from a bygone era.

His movement was effectively crushed when it attempted to support the puppet leader of the black homeland of Bophuthatswana shortly before South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.

He now chooses his words more carefully and is keen to emphasise that the AWB intends to follow a legitimate route to independence and is not calling for an armed struggle — not yet, anyway.

However, like other Afrikaners, he defended his right to protect himself against attacks and said the black-run Government was seeking to destroy his people. “The white man in South Africa is realising that his salvation lies in self-government, in territories paid for by his ancestors. We still have the title deeds for land we bought from Africans — they are still valid and should be recognised by international law,” he said.

Today South Africa’s far-Right, which consists of as many as 60 different groups, some tiny, is a marginal force. Even the charismatic Mr Terre’Blanche, who used to attend such rallies on horseback, was able to attract on Saturday only a fraction of the thousands he once would have.However, he and his lieutenants feel they are tapping into a rich vein of discontent. “The whites in this country are disenfranchised. The blacks are taking our land and chasing us into our graves. More than 2,000 white farmers have been killed since the end of apartheid in 1994. We are reactivating and will do everything legitimately until they come after us, which they surely will,” said Marc Cornah, a blue-eyed, AWB youth leader, as he waved the movement’s swastika-style flag.

Only a tiny minority of the country’s estimated two million Afrikaners — the descendants of Dutch farmers who trekked into the interior to escape British rule in the Cape Colony — support far-right groups, but the gathering in Ventersdorp was, nevertheless, a long way from the Rainbow Nation image South Africa is keen to portray in the run-up to next year’s football World Cup.

The language and views expressed have barely moved on since apartheid and demonstrate how little life has really changed outside the sophisticated urban bubbles such as Johannesburg and Cape Town. “This is redneck country. The problem is, it is very similar to much of the rest of the country,” said a local photographer.

As he spoke, the Ventersdorp crowd broke out in a heartfelt rendition of De La Rey; an Afrikaner folk song paying tribute to Koos de la Rey, left, regarded as the hardest of the Boer generals who fought the British. The meeting finally ended — but only after an even more powerful rendition of the former South African national anthem, Die Stem van Suid Afrika (the Call of South Africa).

In his own words: Eugene Terre'Blanche

2001 In the case that they are sending me to jail for, it wasn’t even me but my dog that attacked the man.

2005 I have always been made out as a racist, someone who hates black people. I don’t hate them. I grew up with them. I just know there are many differences between whites and blacks and I will always believe it.

2005 [The Afrikaners] have everything a nation needs, except a land to call our own.

2008 God punished us with the Government of De Klerk and the new order was forced upon us. I ask you, what is it that you want? We are a pitiful little nation but we will never ask forgiveness for apartheid.

2008 The real hour to revive the resistance has arrived. It is clear the South African police can’t stop the rape, murder and robbery of our people.


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