Sunday, 4 April 2010

Why the death of a white farmer in South Africa may be more important than Haye, Vettel or and off-side Drogba

IT would be nice, on this Easter Sunday morning, to wax lyrical about David Haye's nine-round heavyweight title demolition of John Ruiz last night. Or a fascinating Grand Prix in Malaysia early this morning which featured a Red Bull one-two (that's Sebastian Vettel celebrating, pictured) and keeps the title race as tight as a Scotsman's sporran.

But no. Today's subject is football. But not Chelsea's dramatic 2-1 win over champions Manchester United or Tottenham's unexpected slip-up against Sunderland and their old striker Darren Bent, who scored twice AND missed two penalties.

No. This is far more serious. Yesterday, on his farm in South Africa, a man called EugeneTerreblanche was hacked to death, allegedly by two of his own workers in a dispute over R600, which is about £60.

On the face of it, this has little to do with football. Terreblanche was a fascist. Leader of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging or AWB, the white resistance movement which emerged in the 1980s.

Terreblanche is - was - an unreconstructed racist. A white supremacist. He wanted to set up a homeland for whites when South Africa went democratic in 1994. He has been relatively quiet in recent years and it appeared he would end his volatile, extremist life in peace.

But in a month when tensions are running high barely two months before the World Cup kicks off in Johannesburg, with a high profile South African politician singing a racist ditty about "killing theboer",Terreblanche is found dead on his farm aged 69.

Ironically, after years of attempting to stir up hatred, it is in death that Terreblanche may gain all that he has sought. With Nelson Mandela growing too old to calm his Rainbow Nation, Terreblanche's death will send the white population into paroxsysms of fear and loathing.

They will believe his death is a conspiracy, that a selfish politician called Julius Malema is somehow responsible for the death of Terreblanche and is encouraging murder on the farms, the heartland of the Afrikaner. Reasonable voices will be drowned out.

I've picked up these two vastly different responses from South Africans on the BBC website. A lady called Riesa in Cape Town says: "As a white single mum of one daughter I already had sleepless nights regarding my daughter's safety. Now after the murder of Mr Terreblanche I fear even more. Racial tension has been driven to the point of no return now. I can smell the fear."

And from Durbna, Itami Manganyi is quoted as saying: "Eugene was an enemy but I also don't condone his death. One will argue this is just a conspiracy to discredit Julius Malema's racist song "Kill the boer, kill the farmer". But still I would like the leaderless ANC to refrain from these racist songs."

You get the drift. This bizarre confluence of events, with the leader of the Boer right-wing being hacked to death when Malema's needless posturing is dominating the headlines, could lead to serious problems in South Africa just when the Rainbow Nation needs to pull together.

With all eyes on South Africa in the build-up to the World Cup which kicks off in Johannesburg on June 11, it's the last thing the country needed. That's why the murder of a 68-year-old white supremacist could just be the big sports story on Easter Sunday, when we should be celebratingHaye, Vettel and an off-side Drogba.

I live in hope. That the voices of reason will win the day, the month, the future. Because otherwise, this might be a very sad Sunday for sport.


  1. Lets hope the nation pulls together. I heard your interview on student radio a few months ago, and read your book - very well written!


  2. Thanks Giles. Like I say, I hope the voices of reason win the day

  3. oddly there seems to be more coverage about the incident outside africa.


  4. AWB statement talks about calm... and vengeance. President Zuma has also called for calm. Lots of strange messages flying about on the social networking sites... mostly in Afrikaans. Pray for peace.

  5. Giles says there seems to be more coverage about the Terreblanche incident outside Africa. That is about the stupidest comment yet. There is saturation coverage of this incident in South Africa. It's the biggest story by far. Emotions are running riot, and politicians are battling to keep the country on an even keel. To suggest that this is a bigger international story is an utterly stupid remark.