By Thomas Phakane and Michelle Faul Associated Press
VENTERSDORP, South Africa — A 15-year-old who minded cattle for South Africa’s most notorious white supremacist told his mother that he and an older laborer bludgeoned him to death because he hadn’t paid them in months.
The confession detailed in an exclusive interview with AP Television News today undermines claims the killing was inspired by an apartheid-era song urging people to kill white farmers.
It was a brutal end for Eugene Terreblanche, 69, a man once convicted of beating a farm worker so badly the man was left brain damaged.
According to the 15-year-old now accused of his murder, some of Terreblanche’s last words were threatening: “I will kill you and throw you to hell.”
Terreblanche’s slaying has heightened racial tensions as South Africa prepares to host soccer’s World Cup in June and July. And it draws unwelcome attention to crime in the country with one of the world’s highest murder rates, some 50 a day in a country of 50 million people.
It also comes amid controversy over a fiery black leader’s insistence on singing the song “kill the boer.” Boer means farmer in the Afrikaans language but also is a derogatory term for whites.
Members of Terreblanche’s Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging movement, better known as the AWB, have blamed African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema, saying he spread hate speech that led to Terreblanche’s killing.
Malema led college students in the song last month, sparking a legal battle in which his governing ANC party is challenging a high court ruling that the lyrics are unconstitutional. The ANC insists the song is part of its cultural heritage and that the lyrics — which also refer to the farmers as thieves and rapists — are not intended literally.
“The death of Terreblanche has got nothing to do with the song. We know who Terreblanche was, his character and how he related with his workers,” Malema said today.
He again sang the song while on a weekend visit to neighboring Zimbabwe, defying a high court injunction temporarily ordering him to stop it.
In Ventersdorp, AWB member Rean Olivier said Malema needs to be killed to prevent a race war.
“I personally think Malema has to be taken out to clear the playing field,” Olivier was quoted as saying by the South African Press Association.
But leaders of the AWB, whose members wear khaki uniforms and swagger around with pistols on their hips, sounded a more conciliatory note today.
Provincial leader Pieter Steyn said the movement is withdrawing threats made Sunday to avenge Terreblanche’s death. He said the AWB renounces violence in any form, speaking after ANC leaders came to Ventersdorp to pay their respects to the Terreblanche family.
There has been an increasing number of attacks on farms in recent weeks, according to Johannes Moller, president of the commercial farmers’ union AgriSA.
He said there were many motives but “simply irresponsible actions, such as the singing of struggle songs (like Malema’s), may have contributed to this increase.”
Moller’s union says more than 1,700 white farmers and 1,600 black farm workers and dwellers have been killed since 1994, when elections ended racist white rule and installed a democratic government.
Black workers’ unions say many farm workers are brutalized and even killed by farmers, but they could provide no figures.
“When farm workers are brutalized, even to the point of murder, it is only sheer luck that the matter would be reported to police,” said Katishi Masemola, general secretary of the Food and Allied Workers Union.
Terreblanche was sentenced to six years in jail in 2001 for the attempted murder of former security guard Paul Motshabi in March 1996. Terreblanche was released in 2004. Motshabi suffered brain damage, and was left paralyzed and unable to speak for months after the attack. He still walks with a limp.
“He shot me in the head with a firearm. I don’t have the capacity to remember what kind of bullet went through my head,” Motshabi told AP Television News, speaking in the Tswana language.
The mother of the 15-year-old suspect so feared Terreblanche, even in death apparently, that she never once used his name in today’s interview, referring to him only as “the elder.”
She said her son told her that he and his co-workers had not been paid since he started working for Terreblanche in December.
When they asked for their money, Terreblanche told them to first make sure that all his cattle had been brought in from pasture and counted. When they did that, Terreblanche still refused to pay them.
“He (Terreblanche) said, ‘I will kill you and throw you to hell,’” the mother said, repeating what she was told by her son.
At that point the older laborer went away and came back armed.
“He came with an iron rod, the older one hit the elder four blows and the young one hit him three blows and they left the farm house to hand themselves in at the police station and they told the police that they have killed the elder,” the mother said.
She is not being named in line with South African law, under which a minor charged with a crime cannot be identified without permission from a judge.
“My son was a person who doesn’t like to be in trouble,” the mother said softly, appearing a bit bewildered and scared.
At Terreblanche’s farm today, a big grader was being used to dig a hole in the family graveyard, where he is to be buried after a church service in Ventersdorp on Friday.
“This was such an unnecessary thing,” Terreblanche’s brother, Andries, told the AP, as he sat on a gray marble grave. “We are not racists, we just believe in purity of race.”