Even as the Easter Bunny (me) was busy laying bunny tracks and eggs in the back garden at dawn, news was filtering through of the murder of Eugene Terre’Blanche. Now, while Eugene was not a terribly nice bloke by any stretch of the imagination, he was still (genetically, at the very least) a human being and he met a horrible and unnecessary end. His death is a bad thing for his organisation, his family and his friends. It could be a very bad thing for South Africa.
That said, I don’t think that Terre’Blanche’s murder will be a trigger for mass racial violence. For all his bravado and words, he actually wielded very little power. His ideas were outdated and laughably extreme, his organisation largely ignored. For this reason, I don’t believe that there was anything more to his death than meets the eye. Whatever they may wish to believe, the AWB is nothing more than a fly on the thick skin of the ANC elephant – not even acknowledged as an irritation. So why bother?
The concern for me is some possible retaliation for Terre’Blanche’s death. That some idiot goes out and – unilaterally – avenges the murder with some act of mindless violence. And so it escalates: quickly.
Branko Brkic paints the perfect scenario for the start of a civil war, citing Yugoslavia and Rwanda as examples. Many of the ingredients are worryingly present in the current SA. As he points out, South Africa needs to think clearly now.
Many will blame this murder on Julius Malema, the firebrand leader of the ANC Youth League. Some already have. But the truth is that we will never honestly know whether Malema’s words and alleged hate speech were a factor in this attack. But the continuing simmering racial tension is undoubtedly being heightened by his actions. As Helen Zille remarks:
“The singing of songs such as ‘kill the boer’ creates a climate in which violence is seen as an appropriate response to problems, whether personal or collective.”
This is a potential turning point for South Africa and it’s important to choose the correct direction. Sense should prevail.
Jacob Zuma could aid in this by reining Malema in. Whether or not Terre’Blanche’s death was due to Malema’s much-publicised recent comments, his words are divisive and unhelpful, just as Terre’Blanche’s were. The only difference is that Malema is getting as much free publicity as he wants to spread his gospel. And that has to stop.
It’s time to take a step back, a deep breath, some time out. And listen again to the sense of Branko Brkic:
White people should understand that their black friends are not going to kill them tomorrow because two frustrated, drunken youths killed Terre’Blanche somewhere in North West.
Black people should understand their white friends will not form the Ku Klux Klan just because a couple of hotheads are threatening revenge.
I hope that South Africa has come far enough to overcome this latest and difficult hurdle.
Watch this space, I guess.