Neo-Nazi threatened war to save white rule in S. Africa

Leader of Afrikaner Resistance Movement vowed to die before sharing power with other races

Daily Telegraph, UK/April 11, 2010

Eugene Terre'Blanche, leader of South Africa's neo-Nazi Afrikaner Resistance Movement, who was murdered on April 3 aged 69, was an irresistible magnet for thousands of whites who feared political reforms promising power-sharing with the blacks.

A mesmeric orator with a booming voice that usually rose into a hysterical scream, he promised he would lead his storm troopers to war against the Nationalist party government of president F.W. de Klerk if it capitulated to the demands of the African National Congress.

Terre'Blanche vowed that his men would flatten any force threatening to turn his nation into another black-dominated African country. He received roars of applause at rallies of his supporters when he cried: "We are going to hit them hard, physically and violently. They will be levelled with the earth."

Terre'Blanche admitted that many of history's powerful men like Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler had inspired him. He revered the Boer War leaders such as president Paul Kruger, Gen. J.H. de la Rey and Gen. Christian de Wet.

His organization, the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), operated on the Nazi political principle that it could have only one leader. Without him, it ceased to exist. Even his deputy could not replace him should he die.

He dressed his followers in khaki uniforms sporting emblems strongly resembling a swastika. But instead of the crooked cross of Nazism, they wore symbols depicting three slightly squashed sevens, which Terre'Blanche allied with the Christian tradition embodying that number.

He and his army swore they would perish before sharing power with other races. "We do not hate blacks," Terre'Blanche once said. "We want to tell them to keep their feet off our land." He was motivated by the survival instinct, not strong political beliefs. Constitutional changes undermining apartheid alarmed him profoundly.

His convictions of white supremacy in South Africa were underpinned by religious beliefs, stemming from the Battle of Blood River in 1838 during the historic Boer trek into the hinterland. From their wagon laager between a tributary of Buffalo River and a wide ditch, a force of about 500 Voortrekkers with rifles and two cannons routed 6,000 Zulus armed with assegais (spears) and shields.

So many Zulus were slaughtered that the water ran red and so earned the river its new name. Three whites were slightly wounded. Before the battle, the Boers pledged that if God gave them victory, they and their descendants would always commemorate the day. For Terre'Blanche that represented a covenant never to be broken or even challenged.

But it was criticism of that vow that catapulted the movement into national prominence in 1979, six years after he had launched the AWB as a secret society. He and 13 supporters were prosecuted and fined for tarring and feathering a historian, Prof. Floors van Jaarsfeld, who had suggested that the Day of Covenant was just another public holiday without any holy tradition.

The AWB emerged from the shadows and started its open campaign for the creation of a Boer state carved out of the Transvaal, Orange Free State and Northern Natal, where blacks would be allowed to work, but without political rights.

Asked about his attitude to Hitler, Terre'Blanche praised the dictator as a clever statesman, who led his country out of the Depression of the '30s and transformed the Germans into a fighting people.

Eugene Ney Terre'Blanche was born in the Transvaal town of Ventersdorp on Jan. 31, 1944. From his father, a farmer, he learned chapter and verse of Afrikaner history and became fascinated by its development.

When he left school aged 19, he joined the police force and later transferred to a special unit guarding the residences of the state president and prime minister. After four years he left the force, having reached the rank of warrant officer, to become a farmer, while studying political systems. In his spare time he wrote poetry.

Terre'Blanche decided that the Westminster style of government had no place in South Africa and that rivalry between political parties was not only the main cause of antagonism between the Afrikaners, but also a barrier to national development. Salvation for the whites was only possible through a revival of the republics run by the Boer settlers.

In launching the AWB in 1973, he aimed at reuniting the Afrikaners through the freedom movement untrammelled by political parties. Its president would be elected by whites, with the government run by businessmen. Blacks would be tolerated, but would remain outside the political framework. In a separate area, Western Cape coloureds could achieve "their full potentiality."

After the 1979 tarring and feathering court case, Terre'Blanche set about strengthening his movement with recruits and arms. He was watched closely by the security forces, who in 1982 seized large caches of weapons, explosives and ammunition that had originated in Communist countries. They were found buried on his brother's farm.

In 1983 Terre'Blanche was given suspended prison sentences for illegal arms possession. He shrugged off the courts' decisions, carried on building up his organization and regularly harangued the government.

Proud of his public image as an Afrikaner firebrand of supreme determination, he compensated for his lack of height by wearing shoes with platform soles. He abhorred English-speaking liberals, insisting that he would prefer to deal with black nationalists than middle-of-the-roaders.

He condemned the new constitution of 1984 offering parliamentary seats to Indians and coloureds as well as the whites. Blacks were excluded from the concessions.

Terre'Blanche believed that the constitution was a short-term measure which would not prevent the ultimate bloodbath that would accompany power-sharing with non-whites.

The AWB chief was so vehement in his extremism that he became something of an embarrassment to other right-wing parties, like the Conservative party of Dr. Andries Treurnicht. When he attended a Voortrekker Republic Day gathering in the mid-1980s, Terre'Blanche arrived late with an escort of banner-waving storm troopers, their leader gazing pointedly ahead with his right arm extended in salute.

It was hardly surprising that his subsequent pleas to unify the right wing seldom progressed further than the conference table. Terre'Blanche extended his organization in 1986 by forming a commando-style organization, Brandwag -- or Sentry -- to match violence with violence whenever whites or their properties were attacked. After the 1987 general election, he provided another shock by announcing that the AWB had four members of parliament in the House of Assembly, ostensibly sitting as Conservatives.

In 1989, when president de Klerk was sworn in and started dismantling the apparatus of apartheid, he called Terre'Blanche to his office to tell him bluntly that he rejected the AWB's aims and beliefs.

The AWB, whose numbers were never revealed, became increasingly militant, although it was forbidden by the government from flaunting weapons at public meetings.

Clashes between the AWB and the police soon followed. Before the first multiracial elections in 1994, the AWB was still pursuing a policy of violent destabilization in South Africa (it was, for example, involved in a series of bombings in April that year which killed 21 people), but as the new order gained popularity his party became increasingly marginalized.

Although Terre'Blanche was granted an amnesty by South Africa's post-apartheid truth and reconciliation commission, in 2001 he was jailed for the attempted murder of a security guard and for assaulting a gas station attendant. He was released in 2004. In recent years, Terre'Blanche had had little impact on the public consciousness, although he was reported to be planning to revive his movement and unite South Africa's far-right groups.

Terre'Blanche was killed in his bed on his farm, apparently after a dispute over work which had gone unpaid. He leaves a widow and a daughter.

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