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TerreBlanche jailed for attack on black worker

The South African neo-Nazi leader Eugene TerreBlanche was sentenced to six years in prison yesterday for the attempted murder of a poor black labourer employed on his western Transvaal farm.

The assault in March 1996 on Paul Motshabi, 27, could mark the end of TerreBlanche's 24-year crusade to defend white supremacy. Mr Motshabi was left brain-damaged and crippled after TerreBlanche battered him with a blunt instrument on his Ventersdorp farm, allegedly for taking a break without permission.

At his trial in April, TerreBlanche was also convicted of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm for setting his dog on John Ndzima, a gas station attendant, two weeks before the attack on Mr Motshabi.

Both convictions will be appealed and the court ruled that TerreBlanche could be released on a bail of 20,000 rands (pounds 2,726). The founder and leader of the paramilitary AWB, showed no emotion yesterday as Judge Chris Eksteen handed down sentence in the courtroom in Potchefstroom.

Uniformed AWB supporters produced sacks full of coins to pay the stipulated bail, prompting the judge to send TerreBlanche back to his cell until the money was counted.

Afterwards, surrounded by his supporters, TerreBlanche - a former policeman who came to symbolise white racist resistance to the erosion of apartheid - described the trial as a "mockery" and said that he did not believe he would have to serve any time in prison.

"It's the greatest injustice," he said. "I regard it as laughable. I am convinced the appeal case will prove me correct. If I should go to prison today the truth would be locked in with me."

If the sentence is upheld it will be the end of a long run of luck for TerreBlanche, who for more than 20 years has tread a fine line between politics and terrorism, antagonising first the less extreme defenders of apartheid in the National Party government and then President Nelson Mandela's non-racial African National Congress.