Last Friday, as the storm clouds gathered above the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, Dries Alberts paid a visit to Eugene TerreBlanche on his farm in Ventersdorp. Alberts, the AWB’s flamboyant chief of publicity and information, who has been suspended from his job for criticising"impurities" in the movement's upper echelons, went to see the leader in a bid to iron out their differences. At some point during their conversation, master orator TerreBlanche asked Alberts: "Et tu, Brute?" In a written reply to TerreBlanche yesterday, Dries Alberts replied in a modern approximation of Latin, Italian: "But what are you doing to our nation, Julius?"
Alberts, the man largely responsible for developing the AWB's corporate image, from the three sevens emblem on the flag to the mini-industry of taped TerreBlanche speeches, boxed, labelled and ready to sell within 15 minutes, does not consider that the moral controversy which has wracked the movement amounts to a split. And he does not identify himself with any rebel group or the idea of forming a new organisation. "My prime loyalty – and please quote this in Afrikaans – is aan my God, my volk en my vaderland (to my God, my people and my fatherland)," he says. He adds: "I still regard myself as his (TerreBlanche 's) trusted and true friend… but if my trusted and true friend has made a mistake, I cannot be blinded by the friendship and disregard my responsibility."
While Alberts is upset that the moral strife within the AWB could not be dealt with internally, but "burst forth in the press like a festering sore", he seems equally unwilling to shrink from it. He says the internal problems of the AWB have become serious over the past 18 months. They include homosexuality, "rumours or adultery and alcohol abuse” and, at an ideological level, widespread unhappiness among members about the AWB’s fraternising with various political parties and groups. Alberts does not think chaos will result from the conflict, but rather a cleansing process.
He stresses the movement's strongly Calvinistic motivation – only white Christians are eligible to become members. "This places a responsibility on you, and when there are rumours which go against everything you and your organisation stand for, you have to take remedial action. "The ideology of the movement will survive even if we have to sacrifice some of our leaders in the process. With a purified movement, we can fling ourselves into action with even greater effectiveness."
Much of Albert’s letter, delivered to TerreBlanche yesterday, sets out this position in a proposed agenda for the AWB Hoofraad meeting next weekend. Alberts is not alone in appealing for an "honest and responsible" approach to the issues. Men like Manic Maritz, who was also suspended by TerreBlanche take the same view. The 63-year-old Maritz embodies traditional Afrikanerdom. During the Great Trek re enactment, he travelled on horse back from Namibia to Pretoria with a commando, and for a week before the Day of the Covenant, could be seen renewing the vow on the steps of the Voortrekker Monument early each morning, often alone and usually in prayer.
Eugene TerreBlanche was noticeable, by his absence – another issue members are unhappy about. Alberts, too, represents something of the cultural purity of the clan and his flair for creating attention-getting propaganda put the AWB on the map. His personal life reflects this "purity". At home, pure Afrikaans, free of slang and Engelsewoorde, is spoken and Alberts describes himself as pure African – "more so than those of the negroid race" He offers up the thought that while "the kaffirs are as much a part of Africa, they must not threaten or penetrate my cultural existence".
Reminiscing about his visits to Switzerland, he becomes quite lyrical about Africa. "Switzerland is beautiful, but if I had to live there I would slowly die … to never again smell the smell or a kaffir hut or the intoxicating breath or a bushfire would be terrible." A documentary film-maker known for his art direction and special effects, Alberts harnessed the oratorical skills of TerreBlanche, whom he compares to an actor, and devised some of the AWB's more elaborate publicity stunts.
On January 12 1981 – PW Botha's birthday Alberts' "birthday gift" entailed borrowing a Magaliesberg mountainside in order to write a line from Die Stem using torch-lit beer cans. Stretching for half a kilometre, the message read: "Laat die erwe van ons vaad're vir ons kinders erwe bly" ("Let the heritage of our fathers for our children remain"). He followed this by having the same line turned into thousands of posters which he and a group of members hung around the neck of every statue in Pretoria, including Oom Paul, grabbing headlines once again.
Much of the iconography associated with the Great Trek festivities was also handled by Alberts, who in many instances not only choreographed, but also built the props himself. He likened this experience to working on a film set. Alberts himself talked about the AWB as a film team, with TerreBlanche as the leading actor and himself part of the production. As such, he achieved undeniable gains in tapping into the Afrikaner spirit and dissatisfaction with the Botha government’s reforms. "I saw my task in a spiritual way as uplifting Afrikaner morale and pride in our identity,” he said. Men such as Alberts and Maritz are unlikely vanish into the ether because Eugene TerreBlanche has clicked his fingers.
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.