Fall guy goes into decline Missing persons No.1Eugene Terreblanche

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In the first of a weekly series on news-makers who have disappeared from the limelight, the Independent catches up with South Africa's right-wing bogeyman.

If one man symbolised all that might go horribly wrong during South Africa's transition to multi-racial democracy last year, it was right-wing white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche. A fortnight ago, he broke his leg after a fall from his tractor on his Transvaal farm. It did not even rate a paragraph in the press.

Mr Terreblanche and his Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) have fallen much further than that. He was the star prophet of doom and destruction before the April 1994 elections, exploiting a gut fear among white South Africans that black rulers planned towreak awful vengeance for 46 years of apartheid rule. But doomsday came and went. As fear faded, so did support for the AWB.

Mr Terreblanche, 51, now lives a relatively unnoticed life tending several hundred acres of maize and sunflowers near Ventersdorp, 60 miles west of Johannesburg. .

"He's very much a hands-on farmer and had three tractors going. He broke his leg ploughing and is resting in splints," said his spokesman and number two, Fred Rundle.

Fearing an attack on his isolated farmhouse, Mr Terreblanche lives in Ventersdorp with his wife and daughter protected by bodyguards. His eccentric lifestyle is little changed from that shown in the television documentary The leader, the driver and the driver's wife.

Few reporters bother with him these days. It was different when Jani Allan once wrote of his "blow-torch blue eyes" before being implicated in a love scandal with him.

A militant AWB membership of thousands now numbers only a few hundred - a far cry from the international notoriety that Mr Terreblanche achieved in June 1993, when his supporters drove an armoured vehicle into Johannesburg's World Trade Centre during peace talks. But the beginning of the end came in March 1994, when a black soldier publicly executed a group of AWB men who had been rampaging through the former homeland of Bophuthatswana. "It showed that his army was a Mickey Mouse outfit. Morale was broken by that," said Ikbal Motala, a human rights lawyer from Ventersdorp.

Mr Rundle said that Mr Terreblanche's disappearance from the news was because of a conscious decision to lower his profile, not because editors had lost interest. Few believe he has a political future, although he may be in court more often. Currently heis fighting a conviction for an attack on a shantytown.

"Nobody is as charismatic as he is," Mr Rundle said. "But we don't want to over-expose him. Even Mandela wants to talk to him; he made three requests. But we turned him down ... Mr Terreblanche had to get in all his sunflower seeds."