Boers take their bluster on to the streets: Show of strength by Afrikaner groups ready to fight against the end of white rule

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A TINY girl with a blonde ponytail and dressed in a khaki uniform waved the Nazi-like black and red flag of the far-right Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) as speakers on the podium above threatened to launch a race war.

'If you do not let our nation have our own independent state, there will be war in South Africa,' roared the AWB's leader, Eugene Terre-Blanche, wearing his new Desert Storm uniform. The guest speaker at the rally on Saturday, Constand Viljoen, the leader of the newly formed Volksfront movement and formerly the armed forces chief of staff, was equally blusterous. 'The Afrikaner is girding up,' he said. 'There is a head-on collision coming.' Mr Terre- Blanche pledged his troops' loyalty if Mr Viljoen, who has become a symbol of the drive to unite the Afrikaner right, decided on the course of war.

At times, the procession bordered on the farcical - two men in full scuba gear, the AWB's 'Underwater Drivers', flopped down the road with thousands of AWB troops carrying pistols, pump shotguns, and M-16 assault rifles. But the rally's bellicose message was summed up by a poster: 'The Boers are ready for the last Kaffir war.'

The rally, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, was disappointing for the extreme right, attracting at most one-tenth of the 50,000 people the organisers had predicted. It was called as part of a march to present a petition to the police demanding suspension of South Africa's 26-party negotiations to end white rule, and the establishment of an Afrikaner state, the so-called Volkstaat. 'All participants in the negotiations . . . must recognise our right to self-rule. If not, the Volksfront and AWB will regard it as a declaration of war.'

The rally was the latest sign that pressure is growing on the multi-party negotiators to make quick progress on constitutional principles and setting a date for democratic elections next year. The negotiations were jeopardised last week by a police crackdown on the Pan-Africanist Congress authorised by hardliners in President F W de Klerk's government.