The AWB rides again
Eugene Terre’Blanche is back in the saddle. In an exclusive interview at his home in Ventersdorp he told the Mail & Guardian: ‘The final chapter of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) has not been written. We refuse to give in. In fact, we are just beginning our new journey.”
In its heyday, in the 1980s and 1990s, the AWB was a notorious, and sometimes feared, right-wing group. But by 2003 there was no Klippies and Coke to celebrate their 30th anniversary.
Terre’Blanche was in jail, serving six years for assaulting a black petrol attendant and for the attempted murder of a security guard in 1997. And the AWB was in hibernation, still punch-drunk from a bloody afternoon in Mmabatho when three of its members, attempting to shore up the power of Bophuthatswana supremo Lucas Mangope, were killed. That afternoon all but destroyed the organisation.
‘Meisiekind, not many people know this, but the AWB and Mangope had an agreement to help each other, because we had the same ideals of a free republic for our nations,” he says, his face contorted with pain at the memory.
‘But we were betrayed and blood flowed. But the blood in the streets of Mmabatho marked the beginning of our new struggle.”
In March last year the phoenix rose from the ashes. AWB leaders said they had been inundated with calls to reactivate the movement.
‘The circumstances in the country demanded it. The white man in South Africa is realising that his salvation lies in self-government in territories paid for by his ancestors,” Terre’Blanche says.
He ponders the memorabilia in his study depicting the AWB’s history, including a ‘thank-you” shield from the University of Pretoria after a debate between him and Frederik van Zyl Slabbert in 1988.
‘They did not want to say it, my meisie, but I won the debate that day. You only needed to listen to the students,” he says, reminiscently, passing the shield around.
Glory days, when his oratorical skills were legendary and people trembled at his rhetoric.
Prison has taken the edge off his bluster, but glimpses of his former self still slip through.
On Saturday October 10, Terre’Blanche says, the far right will plot the way forward in South Africa at the Ventersdorp Trimpark. One ideal is to unite 23 right-wing organisations under a single umbrella that can take the fight of ‘the free Afrikaner” to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
Last week Terre’Blanche spoke at a right-wing gathering at Vegkop, the monument near Heilbron, which commemorates the battle in 1836 at which 30 Voortrekkers under Hendrik Potgieter defeated the Matabele.
At last week’s event he asked for land ‘in northern Natal and the Eastern Transvaal” to be returned to the boerevolk and complained that Muslims had been allowed to build mosques on the land the Voortrekkers had traded in the 19th century.
Other speakers at the gathering, which was reportedly poorly attended, spoke about how they could escape the ‘yoke of black oppression” and asked for intervention from God.
Vegkop is just one of the gatherings Terre’Blanche has addressed in recent years, travelling as far as Mossel Bay to speak to AWB converts.
But he refuses to disclose the movement’s membership. ‘It is strategic. You do not disclose your spies in a cold war,” he says.
He is also quick to say that, in contrast with the Boeremag, taking up weapons is not part of the plan—at least not for the foreseeable future.
‘For now there are other options we have to exercise first. We have a strong case to take to the United Nations,” he says, citing a long list of deals between the Voortrekkers and ‘black kings” in the 18th century, including one relating to ‘Port Natal”.
The AWB leader says his movement will call on its ‘immense brains trust” to pursue their goal of a republic. ‘We haven’t decided on the lawyers that will take up our cause. We might even get Johann Kriegler,” he says, grinning.
Terre’Blanche also hopes to organise a referendum for those who want their own republic in South Africa. Those registering to vote will have to be white and have an affiliation with the Afrikaner nation—and even those of British descent are welcome.
And English will be an accepted language in the new republic. After all, Afrikaners speak both English and Afrikaans, he says, smiling.
‘The days of apartheid are over. What must happen now is for every nation to govern itself within its own territory.”
Suddenly, fire sparks in his eyes as the interview turns to crime.
‘It’s now about the right of a nation that wants to separate itself from a unity state filled with crime, death, murder, rape, lies and fraud.
‘A state with the biggest corruption on this goddamned earth, where a state president sits with hundreds of millions of rand that he is accused of embezzling, and just because he is president he is exempted from prosecution.
‘I don’t want to live in such a state,” he says. ‘Not where you can have six wives [sic], have sex with your HIV-positive niece [sic] and then go and shower it off, and then still become state president. All these things are waiting to explode like a nuclear bomb.”
Terre’Blanche said his ‘volk” could not bend a knee to a state where more people are killed in peacetime than in all the wars his people had fought. ‘But we will never run away,” he says. ‘This is the place [staanplek] of the boerevolk. God brought us here from the different countries with a certain goal. God would not have brought us here if he did not have a plan. And his plan can never be the murder and rape of innocent women and children.”
Crime-fighting has become Terre’Blanche’s pet project since he was released from prison in 2004. He established the Brandwag van die Christen Boerevolk (Guards of the Christian Boer People), a network driven by the AWB that can be mobilised by SMS when other members are in need.
‘Everyone in this country has the right to defend himself or herself if he or she is attacked,” he says
And then the bluster is gone, and Terre’Blanche is again gesturing at his AWB memorabilia.
In his office models of horses, AWB swastikas and die Vierkleur offer an eerie glimpse into his past, but it is a portrait of himself at 19 on police service in Namibia that he singles out. In full uniform, he stares into the distance with a heroic air.
‘My beginning,” he says, grinning. ‘You should read the book about my life that will be released in December—Blouberge van Nimmer (’The Blue Mountains of Long Ago”). He picks up the manuscript and begins to quote from it. Glory days again.
In another corner a huge poster advertising his prison poetry decorates the room, with his blue eyes standing out clearly. The same eyes have a tinge of sadness now.
On the way to the car he points out an exact replica of a Groot Trek wagon that decorates the porch.
‘Our forebears had difficult lives,” he says, softly. “They struggled so we could have our own country.”
As a parting gesture, he insists on opening our car doors for us. ‘Veilig ry, nooientjie,” he says, smiles and slowly walks past the wagon, lifting his hand in a final wave.