The return of Eugene Terre'Blanche

Deep in braaivleis country, where ploughs cut through fields of quivering cosmos, a revolution is brewing.

Out there, where silos breathe a dust of maize and boys still learn how to flick the donkeys from the back of the rattling cart, there's war on men's minds.

Angry thoughts of the white disaffected, the fanatics and unreconstructed are fermenting as they tramp the paths of their farms in battered velskoene, or take up their seats to caucus at Wimpy bars.

Load-shedding, interest rate hikes, corruption and crime, crime, crime are steering the reactionaries back on the paths of old battlefields.

And the Boers out in the great prettiness of North-West, Free State and northern kwaZulu-Natal have their leader.

"Here comes a second Burundi, a second Rwanda," hectors Eddie van Maltitz, the right-wing radio celebrity and Ficksburg farmer who tenderly hypes the championship victories of his milking herds.

"Don't allow what China is doing to Tibet to happen here. We must mobilise. The imminent collapse of South Africa is here. The power outages... all proper communist tactics to destroy thousands, if not millions."

He takes a breath.

"This is for the cause of God. There are maniacs in power, megalomaniacs. So I say to you, we can mobilise 350 000 highly trained men. Back off. Don't ask for trouble. We will stop this violence within two weeks as we organise heavily trained resistance against communism."

But it's not Van Maltitz, the regular SAfm caller who insists he can harness "the carnage", who has stepped up to lead. It is, instead, a more familiar face, a man redolent of white violence and supremacist power, who has done it.

The face of modern Boer resistance, Eugene Terre'Blanche, is back. With him is the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), quietly reconstituted a few weeks ago, the fragile racial peace of the country reeling after Skielik and Reitz.

There's a popular view that Terre'Blanche is nothing more than a malevolent old man, that a political repertoire of new roles for him may have been limited by age and a spell in prison during which it was rumoured he had rediscovered his God, his declared racism plateauing out into a more serene life experience.

Certainly, it's been quiet in Ventersdorp since his release from jail four years ago after serving three years for the assault and attempted murder of two black men.

His supporters negate the possibility of truth in the cases against him: it was a conspiracy of scandal.

But now the man who attracts equal shares of fear and ridicule is about to embark on an all-white road show unique to post-democratic South Africa.

He's been preparing, not only politically, but also for the emotional kick of the Gothic oratory that will be expected of him, his incendiary poetry about broken landscapes and ghosts in the ragged uniforms of De la Rey having long held the AWB's fans in thrall.


"The Afrikaner nation was utterly defeated in one night," he gesticulates, archly, the gravel crunching in his tone.

"We were totally ruined at the polls in 1994. It was not the blacks who did it to us. It was not the communists. It was our own people," he hisses, "our own people did it. That was the turning point, not Bophuthatswana, which was a great wrong.

"In one night, the white people grasped it into their own hands and we knew: let us let things develop. Let us see what we will do. So, in prison, I was coming forward while the rest stood guard. We waited, waited... now we're getting ready to seize the dreams of our history, the past of our grandchildren."

A DVD of his poetry, rife with the zeitgeist of his incarceration as a Boer hero at Rooigrond outside Mafikeng, restores that hum, those shouts and repeats, those words and whispers, crescendos and chants.

But Andre Visagie, appointed as spokesperson for the nouveau AWB, has a more down-to-earth demeanour. He says the decision to haul the organisation out of mothballs was populist.

"We were getting calls and e-mails. People were slowly beginning to contact us, unhappy with the way things are going in South Africa.

"The crime was getting too much. There's been a problem with Eskom and corruption in every government department. So we've been starting to encourage more contact through the website and in other ways, and I'm getting about 15 calls a day. This is only the beginning.

"Then we look at how people reacted to Reitz since February 26 up until today. But the genocide on white people is being legitimised and I just can't explain how horrific this is. This is why we say, let's get on to our own land or we're going to get killed, or kill."

The lure of Terre'Blanche is being driven by young Afrikaners - the kind of brash, blond boys who once played the role of the AWB leader's formidable, black-clad Ystergarde (iron guard) to highly dramatic effect.

"They just call me up, from Johannesburg or wherever," Terre'Blanche says. "They want to see me and talk to me. And it's not only them," he adds, pointing to a group of four teenagers who arrived from Gauteng in their weatherbeaten Opel Astra to consult.

Twenty years ago the AWB took advantage of its position ahead of what it assumed would be uhuru.

It started feeding schemes and help schemes. It threatened war - and there were skirmishes, such as the so-called Battle of Ventersdorp in 1991 when police and some of the organisation's supporters clashed in front of the town hall where then-president F W de Klerk was due to speak. Four were killed.

By 1994, when the AWB's ragtag militia entered Mmabatho, the capital of then Bophuthatswana, many other acts of violence had happened at its hand.

If Terre'Blanche gets the febrile white audiences he expects at the AWB consciousness-raising exercises on Tuesday in the old hunting grounds of Vryburg, Thursday in Middelburg and, later, in Bloemfontein and Pretoria, he could begin to loom on the darkest political screen.

And the Eugene Terre'Blanche who his enemies on the right and left may have hoped would fade away in the 1990s, cannot wait to get started.

"Africa has not yet satiated itself on the blood of our women and our children. The land has inherited our beautiful ones," he calls.

"But I am willing to die for the ashes of my father and the temples of his gods and the blood of our children if I am not going to be allowed to live in peace in my fatherland. Our language is born out of the grass, veld, trees and wind of this fatherland. We named the mountains in a new language."

The AWB's new plan for the boere is simple: it wants their land back, their nationhood. And their plot is not to put in a land claim like so many other South Africans, with the dream of repossession buried deep in the soil of their ancestors.

Theirs is to exert the power of three critical title deeds that, technically, may reveal "the Boer nation" to indeed be in possession of at least Vryheid in kwaZulu-Natal, the old strongholds of Stellaland and Goosen in the far North-West and sections of the Free State.

Visagie refers to the Conventions of Sand River in 1852 and Bloemfontein in 1854 and the folly of Voortrekker leader Piet Retief in 1837.

The Hague

If the AWB does not succeed it will take its case to The Hague and, if it does not succeed there, it will take up arms, it claims.

Already it is operating a brandwag (sentinel) on cellphones, accumulating a growing database of supporters around the country, partly as a protection mechanism for those suddenly struck by criminals, partly as a rallying cry.

Even the word "brandwag" excites the imagination of supporters, resuscitating memories of the militant Ossewabrandwag that resisted South African involvement in the Second World War.

Andile Mngxitama, national organiser of the Land Committee, represents the majority of South Africans who would strongly adopt a different position on land repossession, but reflects the subliminal concern about the right wing.

In a comment piece after the Skielik shootings earlier this year, he argued: "White superiority is a state of mind. But this state of mind is not a figment of the imagination. It's real."

Terre'Blanche says it's time to rectify the mistakes of the past.

"The hour," he leans back in his chair, "is here."

sign up