Right-wing extremist Eugene Terreblanche’s recent murder, allegedly by two black people, has prompted calls for a race war from supporters of the party he founded.
It may not happen.
The fiery and bearded Terreblanche has become an increasingly marginal figure since he led an armed invasion of the World Trade Centre at Kempton Park in the early 90s, according to many.
Acclaimed journalist Allister Sparks describes this and many other scenes in vivid detail in Tomorrow is Another Country, a book that tells the behind-the-scene negotiations that led to the nation’s first democratic and free elections in 1994.
The book opens at Sidney Frankel’s farm, where chief negotiators Cyril Ramaphosa and Roelf Meyer were looking to build their relationship by fishing with each other. Meyer got a hook caught deep in his hand, Ramaphosa’s wife, a nurse, tried vainly to remove it.
He continued to bleed profusely for an hour before Ramaphosa grabbed a pair of pliers and said, “Roelf, I’ve always wanted to hurt you Nats [Nationalist Party members],” he told Meyer as he yanked, “but never as much as this.”
“Well, Cyril,” muttered Meyer afterward, “don’t say I didn’t trust you.”
The weekend led to a foundation of trust that withstood many tests, including Terreblanche’s World Trade Centre assault.
The party has largely collapsed since then, and from its height of 70,000 members during the apartheid era, AWB membership has fallen sharply.
The racially hierarchical and inflammatory views Terreblanche and his followers espoused had their roots in the Nazi ideology, and, before that, in the American eugenics movement, a period of history Facing History and Ourselves has done extensive work on in the past 15 years.
Sparks’ The Mind of South Africa, modeled on W.J. Cash’s The Mind of the South, is a fascinating look at the intellectual sources of the apartheid regime and mindset. Sparks writes extensively about Jan Van Riebeeck’s hedge of bitter almonds in Cape Town that from the beginning showed the separation of European and Dutch from the indigenous population.
During the spring break in October 1995 I had the privilege of seeing the hedge’s remnants, and have to admit that I felt a little bit like the musicians in Spinal Tap when the mini-Stonehenge appeared.
Sparks’ book also discusses the Dutch Calvinist influence on the Boers and their sense both of being chosen and persecuted-a sentiment that also contributes to extremist ideology.
Terreblanche’s death is being treated with caution and respect by South African leaders. His murder marks the end to a controversial and inflammatory life given to the service of racist ideology.
He will not be missed.