Apartheid-era flags flew again at the funeral of white supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche today where a large police presence helped deter potential trouble.
The predominantly white crowd in Ventersdorp, South Africa, also sang the old national anthem "Die Stem" inside and outside the church while others held simple wooden crosses with 3,000 written on them – the number of white farmers estimated to have been killed in random attacks since South Africa’s first post-Apartheid elections in 1994.
It was a quiet and dignified end for the controversial Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging party leader, who set up the extremist AWB party in 1973 to fight for a separate Afrikaner homeland. Despite violent threats and a limited but unsuccessful bombing campaign in the early 1990s as F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela negotiated the end of apartheid, Terreblanche was a fringe political figure, say analysts, whose news coverage over inflated his influence.
But his death has raised anew racial tensions within South Africa. Right-wing politicians are blaming the controversial leader of the ruling ANC’s youth league, Julius Malema, for stirring up racial hatred for singing an anti-apartheid song which includes the lyrics “kill the Boer, kill the farmer.”
On Friday, mourners, many of whom wore military-style khaki uniforms or traditional Afrikaner dress, also held the three-legged swastika flags, the emblem of Terreblanche’s AWB party.
There was standing room only in the 700-seater Protestant church where the service took place and an estimated 2,000 people gathered outside but there was no repeat of Tuesday’s confrontation between blacks and whites outside the local magistrates court after the appearance of two males accused of Terreblanche’s murder.
The 28-year-old man and 15-year-old boy were charged with bludgeoning the 69-year-old Terreblanche to death Saturday at his farm near the town, supposedly in a dispute over unpaid wages.
Friday’s one-and-a-half hour memorial service included hymns, Bible readings, and speakers. Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyr told the congregation: “Our government's paralysis here will afford us many sad days like this, black and white.”
After the service , as the white hearse carrying Terreblanche's coffiin left the grounds, mourners raised their right arms in a Hitler-type salute before the funeral party made its 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) journey to Terreblanche’s burial site, on his farm at the edge of Ventersdorp, in North West province.
There were few black faces to be seen near the church after the trade union federation COSATU (made up of mostly black farm workers) held a mass meeting in the Tshing township to discuss recent farm violence and to head off any violence at the funeral.
Earlier in the day, National Police Chief Bheki Cele visited the AWB headquarters and later told the media: “We agreed we hope the day will be fine. We know it’s a very emotional day so we take that one on board.
“Last year we lost a lot of people in South Africa [in criminal acts] … We don't look whether they are white or black,” he said.
However AWB secretary-general Andrew Visagie said party members would hold talks with the government next week to discuss demands for a separate homeland. “We want to be free. We are not interested in being a part of this failure of South Africa. Our very, very last resort would be violence, but we hope that we can go without it,” he said.