South African politicians put a lid on their racial invective yesterday amid fears that the image of the World Cup – due to begin in 65 days – could be affected by fallout from the murder of the white extremist Eugene Terreblanche.
Mr Terreblanche will be buried on his farm in Ventersdorp, near Pretoria, on Friday. The 69-year-old founder of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement was bludgeoned to death in his house last Saturday. Two farmworkers, aged 15 and 21, are due to appear in court today on murder charges.
The AWB retracted its claim that it would avenge Mr Terreblanche's killing. "No member of our organisation will engage in acts of violence," said spokesman Pieter Steyn. On Sunday the party's general-secretary, Andre Visagie, had referred to the killing as a "declaration of war" by black South Africans against whites and had cautioned foreign football teams against travelling to the country, which records 50 murders a day. The Police Minister, Nathi Mthethwa, visited the crime scene and insisted the World Cup would be safe. "With the plans we've put in place, we've got a tough stand in the fight against crime," he said.
But despite the placatory moves, the ANC mounted a robust defence of its youth leader, Julius Malema, whose recent renditions of a struggle song including the refrain "Kill the Boer" have been blamed for creating a climate propitious to anti-white sentiment. ANC spokesman, Jackson Mthembu, said: "The continued linkage of the singing of the song by Comrade Malema to the killing of Mr Terreblanche is meant to fuel racial polarisation. It is a lie which is part of a concerted campaign against Comrade Malema by certain organisations in our society."
Mr Malema spent the weekend addressing rallies in Zimbabwe and was received yesterday by President Robert Mugabe. On the Harare trip, Mr Malema said: "The death of Mr Terreblanche has got nothing to do with the song. We know who Mr Terreblanche was, his character and how he related with his workers. So the police must investigate and look for the person who killed him.''
A small crowd of mourners gathered at Mr Terreblanche's farm yesterday. Some laid flowers taped to newspaper cuttings about the murder in Afrikaans, and a low-level government delegation visited the family.
A television interview with the mother of the 15-year-old murder suspect supported earlier claims by the police that the killing was prompted by a pay dispute.