The trial of two blacks accused of hacking to death South African white supremacist leader Eugene Terre’blanche in a wage dispute at his farm started on Monday amid tight security. Chris Mahlangu, a gardener at Terre’blanche’s farm, and a 16-year-old not identified for legal reasons were charged with the April 2010 murder that highlighted continuing racial tensions 17 years after the end of the apartheid system that Terre’blanche had fought to preserve.
The case has served as a reminder of bitter divisions in the country now dubbed the “Rainbow Nation” and ruled by the African National Congress, the party that helped end apartheid. Many in the country still scarred by its brutal apartheid past were worried that the murder of Terre’blanche — who led the hardline supremacist Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) —could have sparked racial violence. But police said the motive for the crime was likely unpaid wages rather than anything political and the case has not led to any major fallout.
A handful of AWB supporters gathered outside the courthouse in Ventersdorp, a farming community about 80 miles west of Johannesburg. They flew the AWB and former Transvaal flag — symbols of the apartheid regime.
Terre’blanche was a prominent figure during the dying years of apartheid but then lived in relative obscurity, particularly since his release in 2004 after serving a prison sentence for beating a black man nearly to death.
The AWB is seen as a fringe group with little influence, but many still say that remnants of the white-minority apartheid state linger in the country, where about half of the black majority live in poverty. A local black resident, who only wanted to be identified as Sello, said: “The ANC may be in government but in Ventersdorp, the whites are still in charge.”