15,000 South African Rightists Rally as White Backlash Grows
The growing backlash among whites opposed to the South African government’s planned political concessions to the country’s black majority gathered further momentum here Saturday with the largest right-wing rally in many years.
More than 15,000 supporters of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, two ultrarightist political parties and other Afrikaner groups cheered enthusiastically as speakers pledged “a fight to the death” to preserve apartheid, South Africa’s system of racial separation and minority white rule.
“As a white nation, we wish to survive in freedom in our own fatherland, and we demand to be governed only by our own people,” Andries P. Treurnicht, leader of the far-right Conservative Party, declared, rejecting recent government proposals for “political power-sharing” with blacks. “If you share power, you lose it.”
Treurnicht, a former Cabinet minister who broke with the ruling National Party three years ago over establishment of Colored (mixed-race) and Indian houses in Parliament, called for South Africa’s continued partition under apartheid so that whites can retain the “fatherland given us by God,” while blacks have their own countries under the system of quasi-independent tribal homelands.
“We have had enough of this giving in to radical demands,” he said, attacking President Pieter W. Botha’s reforms as the “death warrant for our fatherland.”
Eugene Terre’Blanche, leader of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, whose members have broken up several recent National Party rallies and put the government increasingly on the defensive within the white community, said ultraconservatives are launching an all-out campaign not only to defeat the proposed reforms but also to oust the Botha government.
“We stand before you as freedom fighters,” Terre’Blanche said. “We are not truly the far right, nor are we National Socialists (Nazis).”
The Afrikaner Resistance Movement, once considered an insignificant group on the far right, boasts that it is recruiting hundreds of new members a week as the white backlash grows against the government’s proposal to share power with blacks in a new national council and to draft a new constitution bringing blacks into the “highest levels” of government.
But the group’s white-supremacist stance, its militarism and its wide use of Nazi rhetoric and symbols, including a swastika-like design on its flag, has alarmed many, including some in other ultraconservative groups, who see it as a step toward civil war.
The rally, held here at the Voortrekker Monument to those Afrikaner forebears who traveled hundreds of miles inland from the coast to escape British rule in the 19th Century, marked the 25th anniversary of South Africa as a republic following its break with the Commonwealth over apartheid.
At a Cape Town ceremony for Republic Day, Botha sounded some of the same themes as the speakers here, rejecting international criticism that his government is moving too slowly to end apartheid, and attempting to rally Afrikaners back to the National Party with warnings that the country’s future is at stake.
“At this moment, this republic is again caught up in battle,” Botha said. “We are threatened by forces from outside which link up with international terrorism. . . . We dare not now hesitate to stand shoulder to shoulder to defend this republic and everything that is dear and valuable to us.”