South African white supremacist buried

Eugene Terreblanche, one of South Africa's most prominent white supremacists, is buried amid simmering racial tensions in the country.
Supporters of slain white supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche carry his coffin. ((Schalk van Zuydam/Associated Press))

Security was tight at the funeral of one of South Africa's most prominent white supremacists Friday.

A police helicopter circled overhead while men in camouflage with pistols patrolled the area near the church where a few hundred mourners gathered for Eugene Terreblanche's funeral in the northwestern town of Ventersdorp.

Terreblanche, a leading figure of the white militant group Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), was allegedly killed on his farm by two black workers over a dispute about unpaid wages.

Police in South Africa announced his death April 3, although the killing happened sometime before.

Terreblanche's slaying has not sparked wider violence, but South African leaders have acknowledged that racial tensions remain 16 years after the end of apartheid.

Officials have played down any threat to the World Cup that starts in June, the first time soccer's premier tournament will come to Africa.

AWB secretary general Andre Visagie recently called Terreblanche's death "a declaration of war" by blacks against whites.

Slain white militant Eugene Terreblanche was buried in the northwestern town of Ventersdorp on Friday. ((Juda Ngwenya/Reuters))

Visagie and other AWB supporters have accused Julius Malema, youth leader of the country's ruling African National Congress, of inciting hatred against whites by leading black students in a song that includes the words "kill the Boer" — a term sometimes  used pejoratively to describe South Africa's white minority.

Kobus Rothmann, a Ventersdorp clergyman who described himself as a friend of Terreblanche, said Friday that Malema was spreading hate speech and should be reined in by more senior ANC leaders.

"They just hate us, Malema hates us," Rothmann told reporters as he waited for the funeral service to begin.

Malema has said the song has nothing to do with Terreblanche's death. While the ANC insists the song is part of its heritage, in the wake of Terreblanche's slaying, it asked its members to refrain from performing anti-apartheid anthems.

Racial tensions flare

On Thursday, Malema was accused of fanning tensions by hurling racially tinged insults at a white BBC reporter before ejecting him from a news conference.

That followed a television appearance Wednesday where Visagie stormed out of a live discussion about race relations. Visagie told a fellow guest, a black political analyst: "I am not finished with you!"

For all the shouting, the aftermath of Terreblanche's death has shown how far South Africa has come. White militants first vowed revenge, but later joined President Jacob Zuma in calling for calm.

Earlier this week, whites and blacks faced off angrily in front of a heavily guarded courthouse where the suspects in Terreblanche's death were charged with murder in a closed hearing. But white leaders then asked their followers to go home, and the day ended calmly.

Among the mourners Friday was Bojosi Isaac Medupe, a black minister who said he visited Terreblanche in prison after the white leader was convicted of beating a black farm worker so badly the man was left brain-damaged.

Terreblanche was sentenced to six years in jail in 2001 but released in 2004.

Medupe said he believed Terreblanche mellowed in prison and was no longer committed to racial separatism or white supremacy when he left.

"I believe there was a change in him," Medupe said, adding Terreblanche later helped him buy land in Ventersdorp.

With files from The Associated Press