A South African court has handed down a guilty verdict to one of two black farm workers accused of murdering white supremacist leader Eugene Terre'Blanche in 2010.
Crowds eager to hear the verdict on two black farm workers gathered on Tuesday outside the courtroom in the town of Ventersdorp. The two were accused of murdering white supremacist leader Eugene Terre'Blanche on his farm in 2010.
Sixty-nine-year-old Terre'Blanche was the leader of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (Afrikaaner Weerstansbeweeging, AWB). Both men on trial had pleaded not guilty to his murder. The court found farmhand Chris Mahlangu guilty of murdering Terre'Blanche in a dispute over wages. The second accused, who was a minor at the time of the killing, was found guilty on lesser charges of housebreaking and theft.
AWB versus ANC
Terre'Blanche became notorious for promoting a white supremacist state at a time when black South Africans had stepped up their struggle for freedom and a political voice in the 1970s and 1980s.
During democracy talks between the former ruling white regime and the ANC and other political parties in the early 1990s, Terre'Blanche launched an attack against the delegates. He and his armed supporters were repulsed by the police.
Prior to the 1994 democratic elections Terre'Blanche and other AWB members carried out a series of bomb and sabotage attacks in several parts of the country. Terre'Blanche was granted amnesty for these attacks but in 2001 he was jailed for the attempted murder of a security guard and for savagely assaulting a black petrol station attendant. He was released in 2004 and once again spoke out in favor of a separate white state.
'Racial attitudes unchanged'
Twenty-seven-year-old Andries Labuschagne was in court in Ventersdorp several times. He believes that many people in the area, where Terre'Blanche was born, have still not changed their racial attitudes.
"Ventersdorp is a big problem. The whites and the black people don't communicate much.They just want to knock each other out," Labuschagne said and described the atmosphere surrounding the court proceedings as 'hectic' and 'chaotic'.
Members of the AWB waved swastika-like flags outside the courtroom. On the other side of the road members of the local black community gathered in a counter protest.
Fifty-year-old businessman Paddy Osborne was born and brought up in the Ventersdorp area. With the exception of himself, his whole family were members of the AWB. Osborne says white farmers like Terre'Blanche were known to treat their workers with disrespect.
"Let's say he was busy beating them, which I firmly believe he used to do, and they snapped at that moment and retaliated and killed him. Even as violent as it was, you can still understand the mindset," Osborne said.
While some people say the murderer deserves the death penalty, ANC member Joseph Khumalo takes a more lenient view. He thinks even long jail sentences are too strict and would have a negative effect on the two men's chances of reintegrating into society.
"I think the guys deserve like 10 years because they have to receive punishment also to make them come back to the people. I think they are still young and they deserve to make them good people the next time," Khumalo told DW.
After the guilty verdict was announced, Terre'Blanche's widow was whisked away from the court in tears. But it seems that few South Africans today, black or white, mourn her late husband.
Author: Subry Govender, Johannesburg /sh
Editor: Asumpta Lattus