South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma called for politicians not to inflame race tensions after the killing of right-wing white supremacist leader Eugene Terre’Blanche.
“It is our responsibility to denounce the crime and stay away from statements that might reverse nation building and racial cohesion,” Zuma said on public television.
Zuma’s appeal for calm comes after Terre’Blanche’s extremist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) vowed to avenge his brutal killing on Saturday night.
69-year-old hacked to deat
The 69-year-old white supremacist leader was hacked to death by black workers on his farm in the north-western town of Ventersdorp, after a wage dispute.
“Leaders and organisations must not to use Mr Terre’Blanche’s death to score political points. Instead, they must work harder to unite our people,” the president said.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) said nothing could justify the killing of Terre’Blanche.
“We make a call to all South Africans to refrain from making speculative pronouncements, as the perpetrators have handed themselves to the law enforcement authorities,” the ANC added in a statement.
Leaders call for calm
The secretary-general of the Afrikaner AWB, Andre Visagie, told AFP that the group would meet on May 1 to plan the way forward but urged its members to remain calm and not to take immediate action.
“We will decide upon our actions to avenge Mr Terre’Blanche’s death. We will take action and the specific action … will be decided upon at our conference on the first of May,” said Visagie.
The murder came amid heightened race tensions over a song with the refrain “kill the boers” (Afrikaans for farmers), which has been adopted by the fiery youth leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.
ANC defends racial song
Zuma’s ANC argues that the song is part of the legacy of South Africa’s liberation struggle, but the president faces pressure to condemn use of the song — which is being blamed for motivating the murder.
Two men, one a teenager, who were workers on the farm have been arrested for Terre’Blanche’s murder.
They claimed that a fight with the feared leader ensued after he refused to pay them their monthly wages of 300 rand (41 dollars, 30 euros), local media reported.
“Let us not fan the flames, let us not romanticise violence, let us allow the police to do their work. There are emotions involved here, inflammatory statements will not help the case,” said police minister Nathi Mthethwa, who visited Terre’Blanche’s family and the murder scene on Sunday.
Police barred access to the right-wing leader’s farm on Sunday morning as journalists began to descend on the small town and supporters arrived to mourn his death.
According to the Sunday Times newspaper, the two workers notified the police after the incident and waited for them to arrive.
“They also alleged that Terre’Blanche was a bad boss who used to physically and verbally abuse them. They claim that he pushed them too far,” a police source told the newspaper.
Terre’Blanche barely recognisable
His bloodied body was found in his bed with facial and head injuries, a machete still embedded in his flesh and a knob-headed stick nearby.
Terre’Blanche’s supporters, who wear khaki uniforms and the organisation’s swastika-like symbol, violently opposed South Africa’s all-race democracy and campaigned for a self-governing white state.
Their campaign included bomb attacks ahead of the 1994 polls, which ended the white minority apartheid state.
Violence on farms, which remain overwhelmingly in white hands 16 years after apartheid ended, is high in South Africa with 1,248 farmers and farm workers killed between 1997 and 2007.
The black conscious movement, the Azanian Peoples Organisation (Azapo) said Terre’Blanche died in the same manner in which he killed black defenceless farm workers in Ventersdorp.
“Azapo never rejoiced on the murder of any person, black or white, rich or poor. But the murder of Eugene Terre’Blanche left us with a combination of sadness, awe, confusion and a tinge of suppressed excitement,” spokesman Funani ka Ntontela told Sapa news agency.
“We are sad that Mr Terre’Blanche died in the manner in which he died, murdered in cold blood. Sadly, this is how he killed black defenceless farm workers in Ventersdorp,” said Ntontela.