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."

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game