JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, called for calm on Sunday, warning that “agents provocateurs” might try to incite racial hatred after the brutal killing of the white supremacist Eugene TerreBlanche.
Alexander Joe/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The police guarded the farm of the white supremacist Eugene TerreBlanche on Sunday after he was killed the day before.
Yoav Lemmer/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Eugene TerreBlanche, a white far-right leader in South Africa, was killed on Saturday.
The killing comes at a time when the nation’s racial divisions seem particularly acute, the cleft deepened by the singing of a song.
Julius Malema, the leader of the governing party’s youth league, has recently included a singalong at his public appearances. The song, “Ayesab’ Amagwala,” dates back to the struggle against apartheid. Its lyrics include the lines “Shoot the Boer” — the Dutch word for farmer — “shoot, shoot, shoot them with a gun.”
These renditions have led to hot crosscurrents of opinion here, with some saying that the song has historical importance and that the “shooting” part is metaphorical, while others claim the words are a renewed solicitation to kill.
Last week two judges, in separate hearings, declared the song unlawful and banned its performance, a decision that had many legal experts debating the boundaries between free speech and hate speech.
According to the police, Saturday’s killing of Mr. TerreBlanche, the 69-year-old leader of a right-wing party that has largely slipped from significance, was carried out by two farm workers angry with him in a dispute over their pay.
The crime, while certainly notable, might have followed its victim into obscurity were it not for the current prominence of the song. Mr. TerreBlanche considered himself a Boer and was proud to say so.
Some of his party followers in the Afrikaner Resistance Movement now blame Mr. Malema for inciting the death. Its general secretary, Andre Visagie, was quoted by the South African Press Association as vowing an unspecified revenge.
“Our leader’s death is directly linked to Julius Malema’s ‘shoot the Boer’ song,” he reportedly said, adding that Mr. Malema’s party, the African National Congress, condoned the death because it approved of “Ayesab’ Amagwala.”
The killing of white farmers is a volatile issue in South Africa. The police say nearly 900 of them have been slain since 2001. But many farmers insist the number is far higher and charge that a government conspiracy is at the root.
To them, “kill the Boer” is a lyric with a fearsome immediacy. The knifing and bludgeoning of Mr. TerreBlanche was just another in a common pattern.
For his part, Mr. Malema denied any responsibility for the crime. Reuters quoted him as saying, “On a personal capacity, I am not going to respond to what people are saying.”
Mr. Malema is on a trip to Zimbabwe, where he is again proving to be South Africa’s most inflammatory politician. In a speech in Harare on Saturday, he allied himself with the 86-year-old autocrat Robert Mugabe, a stance likely to complicate negotiations in Zimbabwe’s political crisis and intensify the apprehensions of white farmers and mining interests in his own country.
Mr. Malema, 29, commended Mr. Mugabe for “standing firm against imperialists” in the same manner as Fidel Castro. He further praised him for appropriating the land of Zimbabwe’s white farmers.
“In South Africa, we are just starting,” he said, according to news reports. “Here in Zimbabwe, you are already very far. The land question has been addressed.”
He continued: “We hear you are now going straight for the mines. That’s what we are going to be doing in South Africa. Now it’s our turn to enjoy from these minerals.”
Actually, the A.N.C.’s official position opposes the nationalization of mines. And the government’s land redistribution program, while very troubled in its execution, nevertheless buys white-owned farms rather than confiscating them, paying a reasonable price to landowners willing to sell.
Mr. Malema’s blustery remarks, then, might seem inconsequential. After all, the presidency of the party’s youth league is a position relatively low on the party’s flow chart.
But after Mr. Zuma, Mr. Malema, a relentless newsmaker, is the second-most-quoted person in the country. If people prone to saying the outrageous are called loose cannons, Mr. Malema could be considered heavy ordnance.
There is recurring speculation about why the A.N.C. does not curb his vitriol and racially polarizing statements. It is a hierarchical organization that insists on party discipline. Many here believe that Mr. Malema’s comments must come with the sanction of some within the party leadership.
Mr. Malema’s trip to Zimbabwe is itself curious. Last month, Mr. Zuma himself traveled to Harare, trying to revive a power-sharing agreement between Mr. Mugabe and his chief rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. As the official mediator for a group of southern African nations, Mr. Zuma needed to seem even-handed in the delicate negotiations.
Mr. Malema scorned Mr. Tsvangirai, a man beaten up several times for his opposition to Mr. Mugabe. He called him a lackey for “imperialists,” a term usually directed at the United States and Britain.
A man who dresses in expensive clothes and drives luxury cars, Mr. Malema additionally condemned some of his white countrymen. “The economy is still controlled by white males who are refusing to change, and the media is also controlled by white males who are refusing to change,” he said.
Mr. Malema is scheduled to meet with Mr. Mugabe on Monday. His visit has been hosted by the youth league of Zimbabwe’s governing party, Zanu-PF. During Saturday’s speech, Mr. Malema’s remarks were largely received with boisterous approval.
In honor of their guest, the crowd, with Mr. Malema joining in, sang, “Shoot the Boer, shoot, shoot, shoot them with a gun.”
spotted by RS