The murder of South African white supremacist leader Eugène Terre'Blanche was especially intriguing to me this week, as in one of my BGSU classes I happened to be leading my students in a unit that examined Nelson Mandela. I included as contrapuntal material an over-the-top essay written by a leader of the far-right Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP), a group that shares some of the ideology of Terreblanche's Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) (though admittedly the increasingly marginalized HNP rejects the concept of a Volkstaat, claiming instead all of South Africa for Afrikaners).
A bludgeoned Terre'Blanche was discovered on Saturday at his farm in Ventersdorp. Two black workers were arrested at the scene, and the mother of one of the murder suspects told reporters that her son admitted striking the white supremacist leader with a metal rod after the farmer refused to pay him.
The Internet is rife with sensational rumor-mongering in light of the killing of Terre'Blanche. A representative of the AWB demanded "revenge" in the hours after the killing, though later reports indicate that the AWB retracted the call for revenge and indicated that there would be "no parade, no flag, [and] no political speeches [at the funeral]." The Drudge Report has been running a hyperlinked headline from The Sun suggesting that the killing "could spark race war at World Cup":
Left: Matt Drudge in fine race-war form
Part of the reason for the concern about race relations in South Africa after the killing of Terre'Blanche has been a recent musical campaign by ANC leader Julius Malema, who has been defiantly singing the anti-apartheid song "Shoot the Boer" (Dubul' ibhunu) at rallies despite a government ban against the song. Perhaps Malema will end his insistence on singing the song given the heightened racial tensions in South Africa, but I suspect he will find it difficult to cease his vocal stylings, as backing down will be seen by radical elements of the ANC as caving in to Afrikaner nationalists.
This is unfortunate, as the song controversy likely would have died a natural death. Unfortunately for South African stability, the killing of Eugène Terre'Blanche has the potential to be political fodder for many factions, and my guess is that we will see several months of ethnic and political violence before calm returns.
And perhaps only the old man Nelson Mandela himself can the person to to once again bring a measure of peace to South Africa. Let's hope that Mandela, who suffers from age-related dementia and a host of geriatric-related health issues, can summon enough charisma and authority for some timely words of wisdom to calm the metaphorical waters. No one else in South Africa seems to possess the necessary political cachet to lead the country through this difficult time.