Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Was Eugene Terre Blanche Assassinated?

The leader of the AWB movement (Afrikaner Resistance Movement),Eugene Terre Blanche, was allegedly murdered last Saturday on his farm in Ventersdorp, about an hour from where I am right now.

Two black farm workers, a 15 year old minor and a 26 year old man, have been charged with "murder, housebreaking and robbery with aggravating circumstances, crimen injuria and attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances".

The two farm workers have indicated that they were involved in a wage dispute with Terre Blanche.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) told the court that Terre Blanche was found with his pants pulled down around his knees to expose his genitals.

For this reason, the NPA is pursuing a charge of crimen injuria.

The political fallout has been quite significant. President Zuma appeared on television to call for calm. He licked and smacked his lips through an inarticulate 10 minute broadcast that had him say he would "love to" offer his condolences to the Terre Blanche family.

Leaders in the mostly toothless AWB movement first said they would avenge the murder and then recanted calling for law and order.

Opposition parties started in on the ruling party's man-boy Julius Malema who just recently sang a supposed struggle anthem that says 'kill the boer, kill the farmer'.

Terre Blanche was no saint. He was, instead, a brutal racist who vehemently opposed the democratization of South Africa.

In the past he has severely assaulted black workers on his farm and in the town of Ventersdorp where many of his supporters live.

One particular assault led to a jail term and left the victim permanently incapacitated.

So why all the noise about his murder?

This is not a new story and it must be contextualized in the brutal history of South Africa.

Terre Blanche was a political leader of a racist separatist fringe that have all but disappeared from the current moment.

But, his murder comes against the backdrop of a lot of political noise from the ruling party about their anthem that calls for 'killing boers'.

The African National Congress (ANC) says the anthem is a mere metaphor and cannot be stifled by the courts (as it has been).

Many white folks, particularly farmers, see the song as provocation and believe that Terre Blanche murder was in fact a systematic assassination.

These strands need to be separated.

I have consistently argued that crime does not uniquely victimize white South Africans.

Farm murders form part of a wider criminal environment that finds more black victims than any other racial group.

From what is apparent in this case, Terre Blanche was killed in a wage dispute that is not part of any systematic pogram.

Though it is unacceptable that buffoons like Malema sing outdated anthems that call for 'killing boers' there is no plausible connection to the murder of Terre Blance.

Politically the issues are much more complex.

We have to ask ourselves why South Africa is still so divided along the apartheid lines of race.

Add to that historical mess the intersections of class and gender and the current moment is not exactly that happy rainbow nation Archbishop Tutu began to describe.

The truth is that democratization has failed to reduce the national stress of racism. We remain divided and that is our main characterization.

No amount of telling the truth or posturing on the nonsense of non-racialism has made South Africa anything more than the racist republic that whiteness constructed.

The fact that President Zuma would rather gloss over our racial divides makes the situation desperate.

This is why there is so much noise about Terre Blanche.

We have not even come close to solving the racism that colonialism and apartheid fomented and, we are not likely to do so under the current leadership of race denial experts.

And we are still not free.



Dade said...

You describe a very complex, dangerous environment, my friend.

I heard about he Terre Blanche murder on National Public Radio and found it troubling.

We, in the United States, are experiencing our own variation of racial tension, with the election of the first African-American president. But our problems pale when compared with yours. Frankly, I am amazed that South Africa has avoided civil war all these years.

Stay safe.

Ridwan said...

Thanks for your comment Dade. You have nailed it on the head.

I think we have been in a low intensity civil war for the last 15 years or so.

The specter of race being the perpetual standing variable.

South Africa cannot escape race. The same is true for the US.

Both states are founded on race inequality.

To secure peace, relatively, there is a need to confront race and racism as active public policy.

Both states are failing.

Peace to you brother.