Racial tensions flared as police were forced to use barbed wire to separate a crowd of hundreds of blacks and whites outside the court where the two alleged killers of the South African far-Right leader Eugene Terreblanche appeared for the first time.
Echoing the divisions of apartheid, whites were singing parts of the national anthem that are in Afrikaans and that date to the apartheid era, while blacks retaliated with the new version containing Zulu choruses.
Police, armed with rifles and riot shields, rushed in to separate the two groups when a middle-aged white woman sprayed an energy drink on the black group, sparking a scuffle and prompting an officer to call for help. The two groups were contained using barbed wire.
Jacob Zuma, the president, has appealed for calm, with the ruling African National Congress calling on all leaders to avoid inflammatory statements.
Mr Terreblanche’s murder, by two workers who have allegedly confessed to the killing over a wage dispute, has stirred up simmering racial tensions in the country, as it prepares to host the World Cup.
Supporters of Mr Terreblanche, 69, who was once convicted of beating a black farm worker so badly the man was left brain damaged, and his Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging movement, better known as the AWB, had described his death as a “declaration of war”.
However, Pieter Steyn, the movement’s provincial leader, apologised for the woman’s actions and said the AWB renounced violence. “We have spoken to everyone and told them to be calm”, he said.
The two men, one aged 28 and the other 15, who have not been named, face charges of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances, and crimen injuria, a South African offence meaning to “injure the dignity” of another person.
Prosecutors said the last accusation related to the act of Mr Terreblanche’s trousers being pulled down after the assault.
The two were not asked to plead and were remanded in custody for seven days for further investigations. According to police they admitted killing Mr Terreblanche, at his farm after a dispute over their wages.
Zola Majavu, who represents the juvenile, said that claims of a confession were “absolute nonsense. He has not confessed and he will not confess”.
But as one of the accused was brought out of the colonnaded courthouse in Ventersdorp, deep in the Afrikaner heartland of the former Transvaal republic, scores of black youths erupted into whistles, cheers and ululations.
One woman described the accused as “heroes”, adding: “We are going to stand by them all the way.”
Jerry Mooltsho, 20, a student said: “They have shown their anger towards the regime. Terreblanche deserves his death. He actually beat many people. I don’t have any sympathy.”
Mr Terreblanche’s death came just days after the ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema had taken to singing a song whose lyrics include “Shoot the Boer”–Afrikaans for “farmer”, and by implication, a reference to whites.
Opposition parties have called for called for action and highlighted the fact that more than 3,000 white farmers are estimated to have been murdered since the end of apartheid in 1994.
The AWB wants a separate territory for whites in South Africa and Jan van Wyngaardt, a farmer from Brits, said of Mr Terreblanche: “I don’t believe there’s any racism in his heart, he just fought for his own nation and to get them a piece of land.
“Don’t underestimate us. We were a handful against the Zulus. If you put the white man in a box there’s going to be trouble.”