Thursday, 2 February 2012
Statement by the South African Institute of Race Relations on the ramifications of the killing of Eugène Terre'Blanche - 6th April 2010
The Institute desisted from issuing a formal statement in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Mr Terre'Blanche in order to first gauge the broader social, political, and international reaction to the killing. The Institute is now in a position to make the following points.
Racial tensions in the country appear to have increased significantly in
recent weeks. This appears to be chiefly as a result of incitement by the
ruling African National Congress to ‘shoot and kill’ the Afrikaner ethnic
minority in the country. The anxiety around this incitement may well have
influenced opinions across the broader white community. What appears to
be the case is that much of the racial rapprochement that characterised
the first 15 years of South Africa’s democracy is being undone. This
rapprochement saw both black and white South Africans come to occupy
a middle ground on race relations upon which the maintenance of future
stable race relations depends.
Since 1994 the number of white farmers and their families murdered in
South Africa is conservatively put at around 1 000. It may very well be
much higher. There are currently an estimated 40 000 commercial
farmers in the country. Over this same period in the region 250 000
South Africans out of a total current population of approximately
47 million have been murdered. Criminal violence can therefore be
described as ‘rampant’ and has done considerable damage to the
social fabric of the country. However, this is not to say that all
murders in the country are a function of simple criminal banditry.
In an environment where law and order has largely collapsed the
consequences of incitement by political leaders to commit murder
must be taken seriously.
Over the same period the policy measures put in place by the Government
to raise the living standards of the black majority have failed to meet
expectations. The key interventions of affirmative action and black
economic empowerment have been exploited by the African National
Congress to build a network of patronage that has made elements of
its leadership extremely wealthy. The party also appears to have been
so overwhelmed by corrupt tendencies that it is no longer able to act
decisively against corrupt behaviour.
It has also through incompetence and poor policy been unable to
address failures in the education system which are now the primary
factor retarding the economic advancement of black South Africans.
At the same time the party is acutely aware that its support base of
poor black South Africans has begun to turn against it. Violent protest
action against the ruling party is now commonplace around the country.
In order to shore up support in the black community the ANC increasingly
appears to be seeking to shift the blame for its delivery failures onto the
small white ethnic minority, which today comprises well under 10% of
the total population of South Africa. Here parallels may be read to the
behaviour of Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe when that party realised that its political
future was in peril. The ANC Youth League’s recent visit to Zanu-PF which
saw it endorse that party’s ruinous polices are pertinent here.
In such an environment it is plausible to consider that the ANC’s
exhortations to violence may be a contributing factor to the killing
of Mr Terre'Blanche. Certainly the ANC’s protestations to the contrary
seem ridiculous as the party is in effect saying that its followers pay
no attention to what it says - this from a party that routinely claims
that it is the manifestation of the will of all black South Africans. This
is not to say that a labour dispute or some other matter could not
have inflamed tensions on the Terre'Blanche farm. Rather it is to say
that a number of different matters should be considered in determining
the motivation for the crime.
Certainly the ANC’s exhortations to violence have created a context where
the killings of white people will see a degree of suspicion falling around the
party and its supporters.
It is of concern therefore that the police’s senior management are on record
as saying that they will not consider a political motive or partial motive for
the killing of MrTerre'Blanche. This suggests an early effort to cover up the
ANC’s possible culpability for inciting the crime.
Should any allegations of a political cover-up arise in the pending murder trial
of the two young men accused of the Terre'Blanche murder the political
consequences could be significant. Should evidence be led that the two
young men acted with what they understood to be the tacit backing of
the ANC, and a causal link between their actions and incitement by the
ANC be established, then the possibility of charging the ANC’s senior
leadership in connection to the murder arises. Equally plausible is that
the Terre’Blanche family and the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging could
bring a civil suit against the ANC and the Government.
It is possible that the killing of Mr Terre'Blanche will greatly strengthen the
hand of a new hardened right wing in South Africa. In life Mr Terre'Blanche
attracted a small, uninfluential, and extremist following. He will not be
mourned for what he stood for. However, in death he may come to
represent the experiences of scores of minority groups in the country
who perceive themselves as being on the receiving end of racist and now
also violent abuse from the ANC. In effect therefore MrTerre'Blanche may
be seen as having been martyred for a minority cause in the country.
The implications of a resurgent right wing will be numerous. It is most
unlikely that this right wing will take the form of camouflage clad
henchmen on horses in shows of force. The ANC has also often,
wrongly, identified groups including the political opposition, Afriforum,
agricultural unions, and even this Institute as ‘the right wing’. This silly
‘red under every bed’ attitude in the ANC saw it lose the trust of many
civil society and political groups. These groups could all be defined first
and foremost by the common belief that they had to act within the
bounds of what the Constitution prescribed.
But the ANC belittled and undermined them. It also undermined parliament,
the national prosecution service, and the various human rights and other
organisations that were established under the Constitution. It may yet
usurp the independence of the courts and the judiciary. The result was a
shutting down of many of the democratic channels that were created for
citizens in the country to make the Government aware of their concerns
The resurgence of a new political consciousness among minorities could
drive an altogether different political force. Such a movement will draw
its strength chiefly from a hardening attitudes in the white community
but perhaps also in the Indian and coloured communities. These will be
views that in the main have come to subscribe to some or all of the
1. That the Government has corrupted and debilitated many of the country’s
internal democratic processes for political or civil expression that were
established under the Constitution
2. That cooperation with the current Government of South Africa is therefore
fundamentally unfeasible and therefore futile
3. That the Government is unable to restore law and order in the country
4. That the Government is therefore unable protect its citizens
5. That the Government has a hostile agenda against minority groups
However it is equally, if not most likely, that many minorities who subscribe
to the five points above may simply get so fed up that those who can will
pack up and go. Here they may take the advice of President Zuma to
remain calm as they pack up their businesses and their families and calmly
board aircraft for Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and
Great Britain. With the exodus will leave much of the tax and expertise
base of the country.
Should the ANC, however, find itself facing increased political resistance it
will in many respects have a tiger by the tail.
**Firstly, the ANC depends greatly on the tax income paid by white South
Africans to balance South Africa’s books.
**Secondly, it depends entirely on the food produced by a small number
of white farmers to feed the country.
**Thirdly, white South Africans still dominate the skills base of the country.
**Finally, and most importantly, much white opinion since the early 1990s
has been moderate. White South Africa has been willing and often eager to
cooperate with the Government in building an open, non-racial, and prosperous
South Africa. Losing that cooperation will to an extent put an end to any
serious chance that the ANC has of leading South Africa to become a
successful and prosperous democracy.
While the ANC will be inclined to blame whites for this, and may even take
drastic action to confiscate white commercial interests as they are currently
doing in agriculture, these actions will be ruinous for the economy. The result
of such ruin will be to drive a deeper wedge between the ANC and its
traditional support base and thereby hasten the political decay of the
When General Constand Viljoen decided to throw his lot in with democracy in
the early 1990s the right wing in South Africa was a spent force. So it
should and could have remained. The ANC could have taken advantage
of white expertise and tax revenue to realise their own vision of a better
life for all. Things have however gone badly wrong for the party.
Corruption has destroyed its ability to meet the demands of its
constituents while racial bigotry has now seen it defending its image
against what should have been an insignificant and dying neo-Nazi
faction in the country.
The failure of sensible South Africans to take back the racial middle ground
in the country will be serious. Polarisation will beget further racial conflict
and a hardening of attitudes on all sides. This is perhaps the greatest
leadership test that the current Government has faced and it is one
that they cannot afford to fail.