David Smith, Guardian (Manchester), October 2, 2009
A notorious white supremacist from South Africa’s apartheid era has revealed plans to rally far right groups and apply to the United Nations for a breakaway Afrikaner republic.
Eugene Terre’Blanche was the voice of hardline opposition to the end of white minority rule in the early 90s, but has been in relative obscurity since his release in 2004 after a prison sentence for beating a black man nearly to death.
He said today that he had revived his Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) after several years of inactivity and it would meet with like-minded groups on 10 October to discuss joining forces and pushing for secession from South Africa.
“The circumstances in the country demanded it,” he told South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper. “The white man in South Africa is realising that his salvation lies in self-government in territories paid for by his ancestors.”
A diplomatic row erupted last month when Brandon Huntley, a white South African, was granted refugee status by Canada after claiming he had been attacked because of his race.
Terre’Blanche said he wanted to organise a referendum for those wanting an independent homeland, where English would be an accepted language along with Afrikaans. “It’s now about the right of a nation that wants to separate itself from a unity state filled with crime, death, murder, rape, lies and fraud.”
Terre’Blanche said taking up arms was not part of the new far-right plan. “For now there are other options we have to exercise first. We have a strong case to take to the United Nations.”
The AWB–whose flag resembles a Nazi swastika–was founded in 1973 with the aim of maintaining white supremacy by any means.
White rightwing activity in South Africa faded after the end of apartheid, helped in part by Terre’Blanche’s imprisonment in 2001 for the attempted murder of a security guard and assault on a petrol attendant in 1997.
Political analysts say white extremists have little support, but more than 21 members of the shadowy Boeremag (Boer Force) remain on trial for treason after being arrested in 2001 and accused of a bombing campaign aimed at overthrowing the government.
Before South Africa’s first all-race elections in 1994, the AWB deployed thousands of armed white rightists in Bophuthatswana, a puppet black “homeland” under apartheid, in an abortive attempt to prevent the overthrow of its president. The AWB was humiliated and forced to pull out.
In 1998, Terre’Blanche accepted “political and moral responsibility” before South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commission for a bombing campaign to disrupt the 1994 elections in which 21 people were killed and hundreds injured.
Jacob Zuma, who took office as president in May, has courted Afrikaners at a series of meetings this year, assuring them they have nothing to fear from his government.
The African National Congress said it was unconcerned by Terre’Blanche’s plans. “It’s singing an old song that will not work,” said Ishmael Mnisi, a spokesman. “There is no way we are going back to the era of apartheid where particular ethnic groups declare their own independence.
“South Africa is a democratic country. People have a right to raise issues as long as they’re within the constitution.”
Allister Sparks, a journalist and political analyst, said: “Eugene Terre’Blanche is a discredited figure who has spent time in prison. There will probably always be a small number of rightwing sympathisers, but the ANC has taken a benign attitude.”