Heavily-armed South African police massed outside Eugene Terre’Blanche’s funeral as mourners paid last respects to a white supremacist whose murder has reopened racial wounds.
Six days after the leader of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) was hacked and bludgeoned to death at his farm in the sparse North West province, dozens of supporters of his neo-Nazi party gathered at the local church where Terre-Blanche was being laid to rest.
But while the AWB insisted it wanted a quiet funeral, the presence of armed police wearing bullet-proof jackets highlighted the fears that it could become a magnet for violence despite widespread appeals for calm.
Two black workers have been charged with his murder, which was allegedly sparked by a pay dispute.
Whites air grievences
But the AWB has seized on the episode to highlight grievances over violence against the country’s whites, 16 years after the end of the apartheid regime.
A senior AWB member told journalists ahead of the funeral that the party would be engaging with government on issues affecting white farmers who have been particular targets in one of the world’s most crime-ridden countries.
“We are going to ask the government to give us our own homeland. We want to be free. We are not interested in being a part of this failure of South Africa,” said Andre Visagie.
High police presense
A police helicopter could be seen hovering over the funeral venue, a rural backwater some 10km from Terre-Blanche’s home.
“We are expecting a huge crowd. There is a very large police presence,” said police spokeswoman, Adele Myburgh as armed officers patrolled the streets.
As Terre’Blanche’s family and friends gathered at the church, black farm workers were holding their own mass meeting in the town.
“The purpose of the mass meeting is to make sure that the farm workers, farm dwellers and the communities around Ventersdorp remain disciplined,” said the trade union federation Cosatu.