South African white supremacist Eugene TerreBlanche was hacked and bludgeoned to death Saturday after an argument with two workers on his farm outside Ventersdorp in North West Province, according to local police.
TerreBlanche, 69, was the leader of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, formed in the 1970s, which bitterly opposed black-majority rule.
His death comes amid increased racial tension in South Africa. Last month, the head of the ruling African National Congress’ Youth League, Julius Malema, was banned by a court from singing “Shoot the Boer,” a song from the anti-apartheid struggle referring to white farmers.
Local police reports, however, indicated that the killing of TerreBlanche was motivated not by politics but by a dispute over wages. Police Capt. Adele Myburgh told reporters that TerreBlanche was attacked by a 21-year-old man and a 15-year-old youth, both of whom worked for him but who told investigators they had not been paid.
TerreBlanche’s killing caused shock waves at a delicate time for South Africa, coming just months before the country is to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament. The government is trying to reassure World Cup tourists over security fears and to play down recent racial tensions.
After news of the killing, South African President Jacob Zuma appealed for calm and urged South Africans to refrain from statements inciting racial hatred.
TerreBlanche was reportedly attacked while sleeping. “Mr. TerreBlanche’s body was found on the bed with facial and head injuries. There was a panga [machete] on him and knobkerrie [club] next to the bed,” Myburgh said.
TerreBlanche and others formed the paramilitary Afrikaner Resistance Movement, known by its Afrikaans acronym, AWB, in the early 1970s. In the 1980s, he called for the establishment of three white homelands where blacks would be barred except as workers.
In the run-up to 1994 democratic elections, the AWB -- backed by a tiny minority of whites -- conducted a bombing campaign and threatened civil war.
TerreBlanche was known for arriving at meetings on horseback flanked by guards clad in black or khaki. The group’s insignia consisted of three 7s, resembling a swastika.
In 1998 TerreBlanche accepted responsibility at South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission for a bombing campaign and was granted amnesty.
He was jailed in 2001 for assaulting a gas station worker and the attempted murder of a security guard. He was released from prison in 2004.