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Africa

Heavy police presence and Nazi flags at funeral of Terre'blanche

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-10

Thousands of far-right supporters gathered in South Africa's North West province Friday to attend the funeral of white supremacist Eugene Terre'blanche, whose murder last week sparked fears of racial violence ahead of the World Cup.

AFP - Flags of the old apartheid South Africa and neo-Nazi emblems flew high at the funeral of slain white supremacist leader Eugene Terre'Blanche Friday attended by thousands.

Supporters of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), some wearing their paramilitary uniforms, lined the streets of the small farming town of Ventersdorp as the hearse carrying Terre'Blanche's body drove slowly to the burial site on his farm 10 kilometres (six miles) outside town.

His black, riderless horse led the procession, escorted by six riders, also on black horses.

Family members and friends carried his wooden coffin, draped in a red-and-white flag with the black swastika-like emblem of the AWB. Mourners, some sobbing, threw flowers and rose petals into the grave.

Supporters gathered to sing Afrikaans songs, including the singing of the country's apartheid-era national anthem Die Stem (The Call) which was followed by a few cheers, as the grave was filled.

The sombre burial ceremony lasted about 20 minutes, before the crowd dispersed from the farm in long queues of trucks and cars.

Police said about 7,000 to 10,000 people descended on Ventersdorp, located in the sparse North West province, for the funeral.

Willie Steenkamp, an AWB supporter since 1973, travelled from the capital Pretoria to attend.

"We are disgusted in the government for neglecting the whites," said the 68-year-old.

"We have had enough, it's got to stop somewhere."

Earlier in the day, armed police in bullet-proof jackets and members of the AWB stood watch inside and outside the church during the service amid concerns that emotions could boil over into racial clashes.

"He was a good person, the world was against him, they looked for the bad things about him," Reverend Ferdie Devenier said of the fiery AWB leader, who was hacked and bludgeoned to death on his farm near Ventersdorp on April 3.

Two black workers have been charged with the murder, allegedly sparked by a pay dispute.

As Terre'Blanche's family and friends attended the funeral service, black farm workers held their own mass meeting called by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to ensure workers and local communities "remain disciplined".

"Cosatu told people not to go to town to disturb the funeral because they don't know what white people are going to do," said Hendrik Ntlatlang, who lives in a township outside Ventersdorp.

"We'll stay at home this weekend, but I have to go to town on Monday for work and my kids go to school," said the 34-year-old.

The killing has laid bare bitter racial divisions in South Africa 16 years after the end of apartheid, with the AWB initially warning of revenge and white-black tensions flaring outside the courthouse where the suspects were charged Tuesday.

The government has called for calm, while the Terre'Blanche family appealed for a quiet ceremony with no political activities.

National police chief Bheki Cele visited the AWB headquarters ahead of the funeral and told reporters after: "We agreed we hope the day will be fine. We know it's a very emotional day so we take that one on board."

The police chief refused to racialise crime, saying: "Last year we lost a lot of people in South Africa. We lost 18,000 people. We don't look whether they are white or black."

But the AWB has seized on the episode to highlight grievances over crime and repeat its calls for a separate white homeland, for which Terre'Blanche had campaigned.

The AWB and other opposition parties have also linked Terre'Blanche's death to a song known as "Shoot the Boer" that was first used by the now-ruling African National Congress during the anti-apartheid struggle.

The party's firebrand youth leader, Julius Malema, has turned the song -- banned as hate speech in two court rulings -- into his signature tune.

The ANC is appealing the rulings, arguing it is part of the struggle history, while calling for restraint in the use of the song.

Date created : 2010-04-09

  • SOUTH AFRICA

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