The bearded right-winger, who was jailed for beating a black man nearly to death in 1996, said he had no interest in politics and planned to farm – a tacit admission that the radical group he founded now finds little support among South African whites.
Waving a riding crop and dressed in black, the 60-year-old Terre Blanche led a small group of supporters through the streets of Potchefstroom, a conservative town about 100 km west of Johannesburg.
A large media contingent jostled with onlookers, both black and white, to get a look at the once-feared leader of South
Africa’s far right-wing.
“Don’t fall off your horse!” some laughing blacks in the crowd yelled. Terre Blanche gave a stiff-armed salute to several supporters, who waved red flags emblazoned with his group’s swastika-like symbol, and later said he was committed to living as an “honourable citizen” and God-fearing Afrikaner.
The apartheid rule in South Africa
“I was never wrong to do my duty to my people,” he said. Black supporters of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) followed the procession shouting “Viva ANC”. But the good natured crowd appeared to regard Terre Blanche and his group more with curiosity than contempt.
“He needs to work with our president (Mbeki) for the good of the country,” said 27-year-old Peter Dlamini.
Terre Blanche said at a news conference that he was not
interested in politics and only wanted to go back to farming.
“I am not the leader of a political party. I have no intention ever to go to parliament…I am going to be a farmer,” said Terre Blanche.
Terre Blanche began a six-year jail sentence in March 2001 for beating a farmworker so badly in 1996 that the man was brain damaged. He was released early on parole.
He also served six months in 2000 for assaulting a petrol attendant and setting his dog on him.
Terre Blanche, best known as the leader of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement) (AWB), and his followers threatened to derail democratic elections in 1994 that marked the end of decades of white minority rule.
“I was never wrong to do my duty to my people”
Eugene Terre Blanche,
He appealed to right-wing Afrikaner sentiment by harking back to the days of the Dutch-descended Voortrekkers, who left British rule in the Cape and went inland by horse and oxen to set up independent settlements known as the Orange Free State and Transvaal.
AWB supporter Andre Visagie said the group hoped to promote ‘self-determination’ for Afrikaners – who make up a little more than half the country’s four million whites – and Terre Blanche still provoked fear among South Africa’s black leaders.
“Why do you think he’s being released after the election… the political people were afraid he would interfere with the result of the election,” Visagie said.
An object of much scorn, Terre Blanche was ridiculed after he famously fell off his horse during a parade through Pretoria – leading many South Africans to dismiss the AWB as a childish game of dress-up.