Heavily armed police guard Eugene Terre'Blanche's funeral as supporters mourn the white supremacist whose murder has reopened racial wounds.
Police guard white supremacist's funeral
Heavily armed South African police massed outside Eugene Terre'Blanche's funeral today as mourners paid last respects to a white supremacist whose murder has reopened racial wounds. Six days after the leader of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) was hacked and bludgeoned to death at his farm in the sparse North-west province, dozens of supporters of his neo-Nazi party gathered at the local church where Terre'Blanche was being laid to rest. But while the AWB insisted it wanted a quiet funeral, the presence of armed police wearing bulletproof jackets highlighted the fears that it could become a magnet for violence despite widespread appeals for calm. Two black workers have been charged with his murder, which was allegedly sparked by a pay dispute. But the AWB has seized on the episode to highlight grievances over violence against the country's whites, 16 years after the end of the apartheid regime. Speaking before the funeral, a senior AWB member said that the party would be engaging with government on issues affecting white farmers who have been particular targets in one of the world's most crime-ridden countries. "We are going to ask the government to give us our own homeland. We want to be free. We are not interested in being a part of this failure of South Africa," said Andre Visagie. "Our very, very last resort would be violence, but we hope that we can go without it." A police helicopter could be seen hovering over the funeral venue, a rural backwater some 10 kilometres from Terre'Blanche's home. "We are expecting a huge crowd. There is a very large police presence," said police spokeswoman, Adele Myburgh as armed officers patrolled the streets. As Mr Terre'Blanche's family and friends gathered at the church, black farm workers were holding their own mass meeting in the town. "The purpose of the mass meeting is to make sure that the farm workers, farm dwellers and the communities around Ventersdorp remain disciplined," said the trade union federation Cosatu. Tempers flared between black and white crowds on Tuesday when two suspects appeared in court to face murder charges, with police forced to separate the rival groups with a razor wire barricade. The white supporters sang the apartheid national anthem to which the black crowd answered with South Africa's democratic anthem in an ugly show of racial disharmony. A further illustration of the racial tensions came during the recording of a current affairs programme due to be broadcast by the ETV network this weekend, when Mr Visagie threatened a black woman analyst after she asked him if he aware of the abuse of black farm labourers by their white employers. Mr Visagie had to be restrained by the show producers after he threatened to manhandle the woman. The AWB and other opposition parties have linked Mr Terre'Blanche's death to the song "Shoot the Boer", an anthem first used by the now ruling African National Congress during the anti-apartheid struggle and which the party's firebrand youth leader Julius Malema has turned into his signature tune. The song has been banned as hate speech in two court rulings but the party is appealing the decisions, arguing it is part of the struggle history. The South African president, Jacob Zuma, is among those who have urged calm and newspapers today welcomed attempts to defuse tensions. "At the same time threats to peace and stability posed by the far right wing should not be overestimated," The Star daily said in its editorial. The weekly Mail and Guardian said Mr Malema had ironically granted Mr Terre'Blanche a fresh platform after fading into obscurity after his violent opposition to the first multiracial polls in 1994. "With Terre'Blanche's death we bury a monster ? both literal and figurative ? but South Africa needs to figure out ways to live with a past that isn't so easy to put in a coffin," it said in an editorial. *AFP