Advocate of hatred who became a figure of fun

He never compromised his views, but Eugene Terreblanche's final years were marked by obscurity and absurdity.

It was A measure of Eugene Terreblanche's political ineptitude and racist fervour that he proclaimed victory for his movement and its white supremacist ideals at the moment of its heaviest defeat. Three senior members of his neo-Nazi paramilitary group lay dead on the soil of a fast-emerging post-apartheid South Africa, but, with his trademark zeal, Terreblanche insisted that the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) had scored a "brilliant victory".

The invasion of the apartheid-era "homeland" of Bophuthatswana by 750 of Terreblanche's group in March 1994, resulting in defeat at the hands of the enclave's black security forces – including one soldier who shot dead three Afrikaner "generals" in front of television cameras – is regarded as the moment that he and his white extremists lost their self-proclaimed "war" against the establishment of black majority rule.

A judicial inquiry into the incident laid blame for the tragedy squarely at the door of Terreblanche and the AWB, stating: "It brought with it the realisation that assaults upon and the killing of blacks will result in retaliation with, in many instances, fatal results. [This] led to the cessation of the militant activities and the demise of the militant right-wing elements in the South African political milieu."

Terreblanche, a former policeman who had set up the AWB as a secret society in a Johannesburg garage in 1973, achieved a rapid ascent as the figurehead of efforts by a fearful white minority to cling on to power in South Africa during the 1980s and 1990s. With fiery – but frequently impenetrable – oratory, he exhorted people to bear arms in the search for a separate Boer state.

With a voice that alternated between menacing whisper and booming fury, the bearded extremist – whose liking for khaki shorts gave him the appearance of a superannuated Boy Scout – warned packed rallies of Afrikaner supporters of an apocalyptic battle to prevent black rule. He said: "We are going to hit them hard, physically and violently. They will be levelled with the earth."

Such tilting at windmills while the ANC leader Nelson Mandela and President F W de Klerk negotiated a new post-apartheid constitution drew many to conclude that Terreblanche was a bullying clown at the head of a red-necked legion paramilitaries marching beneath the red, white and black flag that paid conspicuous tribute to their Nazi forebears. The effect was completed by Terreblanche's fondness for heading protests on the back of one of his horses in the manner of a Hollywood cowboy villain.

But from his base in the depressed Transvaal town of Ventersdorp, Terreblanche and his AWB nonetheless engineered a blood-soaked campaign to spark what it hoped would become a racial civil war.

When President de Klerk came to Ventersdorp in 1991, police were forced to fire on an AWB mob, killing three protesters. Two years later, Terreblanche led the armed storming of the World Trade Centre in Johannesburg where talks on a post-apartheid settlement were taking place.

Even as the first democratic elections in South Africa were going on, the AWB conducted a series of bombings which claimed 21 lives, including an attack on Johannesburg's main airport. As Terreblanche's men withdrew from Bophuthatswana on 11 March 1994, they killed an estimated 100 people.

Ultimately, however, this proselytiser for hate was largely undone by ridicule. From the moment he was filmed falling off his handsome steed at a parade in Pretoria to the British film-maker Nick Broomfield's lampooning documentary, The Leader, His Driver and the Driver's Wife, the menace posed by Terreblanche was slowly defused by his transformation into a national joke. Claims of an affair between Terreblanche and a South African gossip journalist led to a High Court libel trial in London during which the AWB leader was ridiculed for a series of revelations, including his fondness of a pair of ripped green underpants.

In the wake of the murderous Bophuthatswana debacle, the AWB's influence began to wane. What sway Terreblanche, who was granted an amnesty by South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, continued to exert was nullified by two prison terms for violent assaults on black men, including one on a security guard who was beaten so badly by the AWB leader that he was left brain-damaged.

Terreblanche emerged from prison in 2004 claiming to be a born-again Christian and insisting he had modified his views on race. He settled down to a life of relative obscurity, but the fiery rhetoric was never far away. Last year, as he tried to resurrect the AWB, he told an audience: "Now all true Afrikaners must reach out to each other and fight to the bitter end. Our country is being run by criminals who murder and rob. This land was the best, and they ruined it all. We are being oppressed again. We will rise again."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
film

News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is reported to be in final negotiations to play Doctor Strange for Marvel although the casting has not yet been confirmed
film
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Life and Style
fashion

World Beard and Moustache Championships held last week

News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Copycat culture: the Chateau Zhang Laffitte in China, top, and the building which inspired it, in Paris, bottom
architectureReplicas of Western landmarks are springing up in unlikely places
Sport
Rolando Aarons watches as his effort finds the corner of the Manchester City goal to give Newcastle the lead
footballManchester City 0 Newcastle 2: Holders crash out on home turf
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Geography Teacher - ...

Secondary Humanities, Business and Economics, Jan 15, Malaysia

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Position: Secondary Humanities, Business...

Key stage 1 supply bank

£80 - £110 per day + CPD: Randstad Education Bristol: Key stage 1 & 2 supp...

Secondary Chemistry Teacher, January 2015, Malaysia

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Position: Secondary Chemistry TeacherReq...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain