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COSATU on the murder of Eugene Terre’Blanche: `an enemy of democracy, a racist and a fascist'

By Patrick Craven, COSATU national spokesperson

April 6, 2010 -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) condemns the brutal murder of Eugene Terre’Blanche on April 3, 2010, and sends its condolences to his family. Murder and violent assaults can never be condoned, even against your worst enemy. His killing however highlights the following issues:

COSATU will remember Terre’Blanche as an enemy of democracy, a racist and a fascist. His Nazi AWB tried to sabotage our transition to majority rule, when they forced their way into the World Trade Centre when our democracy was being negotiated, and when they invaded Bophuthatswana to defend a hated Bantustan system our people had rejected [in 1994].

He was also typical of the worst type of employer on South Africa’s farms. The reported circumstances of his murder speak volumes about the appalling state of labour relations on farms.

The alleged killers were farm workers -- one of them 15 years old and therefore employed illegally -- demanding unpaid wages of a paltry R300 a month (US$40/Aus$45). While their alleged violent actions cannot be excused, they illustrate the depth of many farm workers’ frustration at their deplorable working conditions. We assume that these two young workers were so desperate that the only way they could see to get justice was to allegedly bludgeon their boss to death, an act we are condemning outright.

The police and courts must enforce the law in this case, but also revisit the numerous outstanding cases where farm workers and dwellers have been shot -- often under the blatantly false excuse that they were mistaken for dogs, baboons or warthogs -- had dogs set on them, been thrown into lions’ enclosures or evicted from the homes on to the roadside in the middle of winter.

Most farm workers have to work for wages way below the minimum laid down by the Sectoral Determination, often from dawn to sunset without any compensation, and frequently on public holidays and even polling days. They suffer racial insults, assaults, evictions and murders.

A survey of COSATU members in 2000 revealed that 25% of African workers said that their employer discriminated by race and one in seven said they had experienced racial abuse at work. That was a survey across all sectors, but there is abundant evidence that it is worst in the agricultural sector, where labour relations on many farms are still feudal, unchanged since the days of apartheid, with the employers predominantly white and the workers overwhelmingly black. A master and slave relationship continues. It is not uncommon for Department of Labour inspectors to be barred from entering farms. Only 3%-4% of workers are trade union members.

As numerous reports from COSATU’s North West provincial secretary Solly Phetoe confirm, the farmers are very often hand-in-glove with the local police, courts and government officials, who collude to let criminal farmers off the hook when they are charged with racist crimes. No such leniency is exercise when workers and the poor farm dwellers are charged with crimes.

In some areas the situation is aggravated by the employment and super-exploitation of immigrant workers, who are treated even worse, especially illegal immigrants who can be reported to the police if they do not toe the line. This in turn stokes resentment amongst other workers whose jobs are under threat.

No once have we seen COPE [Congress of the People party, a right-wing slpit off from the African national Congress] president Mosioua Lekota in any of the farm workers’ marches to demand justice for the victims of these racist and violent killings and assaults. He has never been at any funeral of these victims or visited the grieving parents of victims of these widespread acts of violence. Yet he found time to visit Terre’Blanche’s farm.

One of the ANC’s top priority areas is land reform and rural development. It must now be the ANC and government’s top priority to transform the lives of the farm workers and dwellers, by vigorously enforcing the labour laws on the farms, helping COSATU and its affiliate Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) to recruit and organise farm workers and to speed up the very slow process of land redistribution.

COSATU and government are organising provincial farm workers’ summits over the coming weeks, leading up to a national summit later in the year. The issues are how to enable farm workers to enjoy the fruits of democracy and laws that protect their rights, and to rescue them from the racist slavery under which most of them suffer at the present time.

Congress of South African Trade Unions

1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets
Braamfontein, 2017

P.O. Box 1019
Johannesburg, 2000
South Africa

Attacks against farm workers and their families

By Solly Phetoe, COSATU North West Province secretary

April 7, 2010 -- The Congress of South African Trade Union and its affiliates are strongly disturbed at the program of racial attacks led by farmers. It is really disappointing to continue to get public statements of denialism of brutal racial assaults and killings. Poor farm workers and their families are mauled by lions and nothing happens. Farmers in the North West are used to assaulting and killing workers by assaulting, and then alleging that workers were stealing; and they are being supported by police.

The killing of the AWB leader is one of cruelest things that has happened in the province. But more than a hundred farm workers and their families are brutally assaulted and killed almost every week, every month.
On April 6, 2010, at Lichtenburg a farmer called Van Rensburg assaulted six of his farm workers. When we exposed them they called us racists. The same farmer was not arrested until COSATU intervened. This is due to the relationships of farmers, the police and the Department of Justice. When workers report their case they are turned back.

COSATU North West will not keep quiet, will not be intimidated, victimised or threatened by the Democratic Alliance [South Africa's main opposition party, composed of former the white parties under apartheid] leaders, Congress of the People [right-wing split from the ANC] or Agri-NW [provincial agriculture department]. We shall continue to expose all those cases of racial assault and killings against farm workers and their families.

COSATU demands that the provincial commissioner release all statistics of cases of assault and killing of farm workers that were reported to the police in the North West Province.

The Department of Justice is called on also to release details of cases that are in court and tell the public why there is no prosecution on almost all cases that involved white farmers, and why some of the cases are dragging on for more that two years in court without prosecution or trial, for example:
Johan Nel in Lichtenburg killed a young boy in October 2008.

  • Farmers in Swartruggens assaulted and killed farm workers, but the cases were withdrawn even before the could appear in court.
  • Farm workers and their families were mauled by lions in 2005, 2007 and 2008, but these cases are still in the roll. Others were withdrawn without informing the families. The Department of Agriculture replaced the life of a human being with R60,000, e.g. Tshepo Gaorupi in Tosca killed by nine lions the case was withdrawn.
  • A farm worker was killed in Bosdam in June 2009, until now no postmortem result, no trial, no arrest.

Workers are killed, evicted and everybody is quiet, including our provincial and national government. Farm workers have not enjoyed the 1994 breakthrough or the democratic process. Therefore COSATU demands that the government or politicians must not take sides. We must all take responsibility of what has happened both in the killing all farm workers and farmers.

COSATU demands full safety for all farm workers in the province, in 2008, 2009 COSATU demanded unity in government to deal with this critical issue, in 2010 we submit that we must establish a provincial task team with all stakeholders. Agric-NW refused and government agreed with progress.
Cases were reported in the following areas:

  • Wolmaranstad
  • Lichtenburg
  • Brits/Madibeng
  • Swartruggens
  • Ventersdorp
  • Koster
  • Schweizer-Reneke
  • Bloemhof
  • Chistian
  • Ganyesa
  • Stella
  • Zeerust
  • Tigane

In all these areas there are brutal assaults, killings and human rights abuse cases that have been reported by workers.


Gillian Slovo: S. Africa will survive killing of a neofascist

South Africa will survive the killing of a neofascist – like in 1994

The death of Eugene Terre'Blanche is a sorry end to a deluded life. What it decidedly isn't is the spark for a race war

As South African diplomats, business people and sports promoters cross the globe to sell the coming glory of a peaceful football World Cup, two of Eugene Terre'Blanche's workers are charged with bludgeoning him to death. In response to this, Terre'Blanche's fading Afrikaner Resistance Movement (the AWB) is threatening revenge and the start of a new race war. Meanwhile, Julius Malema, the maverick ANC youth leader, crossed the border to treat Zimbabweans to a rendition of one of his favourite apartheid-era protest songs, containing the line "Kill the Boer". The rainbow dream, South Africa's critics say, is over.

Running under coverage of Terre'Blanche's murder, and the warnings for football fans who dare to venture into the dark continent, is an undercurrent of "I told you so". South Africa, we are told, is again teetering on the brink of explosion. Like Zimbabwe, the argument runs, the struggle for freedom is running into a free-for-all-bloodletting where all that matters is the colour of a person's skin. We should, it is suggested, throw away our wishful hopes that Nelson Mandela's magic would make apartheid's traumas disappear: realists knew all along that it would not, could not, be so.

But this is not a turning point for South Africa. If ever there were a moment when the AWB and its leader posed a threat to the stability, it was in 1994, in the months leading up to the country's first democratic election.

The four years between Mandela's release and the election were bloody in the extreme. In the apartheid government's version of "I told you so", black-on-black violence – much of which was later revealed to have been the work of government-sponsored "third force" provocateurs – had risen to terrifying proportions. The country, it was feared, was a tinderbox that would soon explode.

At the same time, and lurking in the background, was the far right, of which Terre'Blanche's AWB was an influential player. Fuelling the ANC's fears in that period was the possibility that this neofascist movement would join with undemocratic elements in the apartheid army and precipitate a civil war.

These fears came to a head in 1994. Lucas Mangope, puppet leader of Bophuthatswana, an apartheid satellite state, tried to stop "his" people from voting in the coming election. The response was widespread strikes with even his brutalised and brutalising police turning against him.

In the hope of holding on to power, Mangope asked the Afrikaner Volksfront, the organisation run by the rightwing General Constand Viljoen, to help him. Here was the moment the ANC most feared. The Volksfront and the South African Defence Force both going into Bophuthatswana, with the gun-toting, khaki-clad crazies of Terre'Blanche's AWB, though uninvited, coming along for the ride. The mavericks of the AWB were armed and not afraid to shoot and kill in the name of white supremacy. This was not the smooth tongue of FW de Klerk's reforming apartheid; it was its naked hatred.

For a few days South Africa held its breath. Then Viljoen was persuaded to climb down, and the AWB was asked to leave. They rode out in convoy, still firing, killing bystanders as they went. When Bophuthatswanan soldiers fired back, they managed to shoot one of the drivers. Their jeep halted, three AWB members came tumbling out. That was the moment that was to prove decisive. A Bophuthatswana police officer stepped up and, in cold blood and in front of cameras, killed all three.

The start of a race war? On the contrary. Men like Terre'Blanche had managed to persuade the country that his brownshirts were capable of seizing control. The sight of his men, pleading for their lives, unable to prevent their own deaths, gave this the lie. It was a turning point provoked not by blood or vengeance, but by an encounter with reality: a moment when it was made clear that the election would take place, no matter the deluded resistance of dinosaurs like Terre'Blanche.

As in 1994, so today. Though the killers were black and their victim white, the story can equally be read as the revenge of furious employees against a violent master. Terre'Blanche's may be a sorry end to a deluded life: what it will not be is the beginnings of race war.

Terre’blanche a symbol of racist rule and demagogue

05 April 2010

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) notes the death of the racist Eugene Terre’blanche, who opposed the democratization of our country, and was hell-bent on retaining and maintaing the apartheid system through a separatist State for Afrikaners - Volkstaat.

It was Terre’blanche and his right-wing forces that forcefully invaded and crushed to the World Trade Centre to stall the negotiations that led to a future and democratic South Africa. Terre’blanche never showed any remorse or extended a hand of reconciliation to the Black people for the heinous crimes he committed together with the AWB.

As CWU we want to publicly dispel the lies by Democratic Alliance and other like-minded right-wing organizations that are opportunistically linking the death of Terre’blanche to the struggle song ‘Dubula iBhunu’ as malicious and an incitement of racial violence. Our struggle for the liberation of the oppressed went beyond the stones and petrol bombs; struggle songs played a role in defeating the apartheid system and the racist agenda as personified by Terre’blanche.

Terre’blanche’s death should not be used to re-write our history and distort the collective memory of our country.

It is our legitimate and considered view that Terre’blanche should not be honored and praised by the State on behalf of the people of our country. Terre’blanche to the eyes of our people is a symbol of racist apartheid and suffering endured by our people during apartheid rule and colonial oppression.

As CWU, we call on the Afrikaner working class to work closely with the mass democratic movement as led by the ANC, as part of building human solidarity whose foundation was laid by progressive Afrikaners such as Bram Fischer and Beyers Naude to eradicate Terre’blanche’s racist and sexist world outlook that continues to afflict the vast section of African and Black working class.

Matankana Mothapo
Communication Workers Union

Amandla! magazine: Terre’blanche – an economic murder!


By Helga Jansen

April 8, 2010 -- Before the events surrounding the murder of Eugene Terre’blanche become the stuff of legend, myth and spin, we must soberly look at his killing and shape an analysis of his death within the contexts of the dire conditions of rural farm workers, and the unequal social relations simmering in the countryside.

For this reason it would be too simplistic to view Terreblanches’ murder as a purely racially motivated act.  That does not mean that the singing of a song, which should be relegated to history, has not played its part in exacerbating an environment of racial tension fueled by the populism of Malema with the acquiescence of the ruling party. To view the Terre’blanche murder as a race murder is to look for an easy answer. Terre’blanche was not killed because he was white. The meaning of Terre'blanche's murder is a symptom of our unequal society.

The talk of race must move beyond white supremacy and black nationalism, and look at the environment in which he was murdered – an unequal society in which a growing under-class of urban and rural poor, mainly black,  see their situation growing more dire, made more so through weak service delivery and extreme levels of unemployment. Their situation is juxtaposed against the historical wealth of white South Africans, and the nouveau wealth of black South Africans. So if we are to discuss this murder, as one of many murders taking place throughout the country, then it must be in the context of growing frustration with a state alienated from the plight of its people, the continued monopolization of resources by capital, and an economic status quo in which generally, white South Africans remain wealthy and land owning. Terre’blanche’s murder was an economic murder.

Terre’blanche’s murder in fact illuminates the feudal system of rule still prevalent in our countryside. There has been very little change in the social relations between white farmers and black farm labourers since the days of colonialism. Not since the slave Galant led the Koubokkeveld revolt in 1825 as the whispers of freedom came across the Atlantic; not since 2006 when farmer Piet Botes from the Leeu Gamka area in the Karoo assaulted two teenage girls, was found guilty in a court, while facing charges of abducting and murdering 13-year-old Elizabeth Martiens; nor recently in 2010 when Swartruggens farm worker, Zibilon Setlhodi was badly  assaulted by farmer, a Mr. H Engelbrecht.

The list of black farm workers murdered or assaulted by white farmers is as endless as the 3000-odd farmers whom, Agriforum, and others in the Afrikaner community, say have been murdered. The manner of his death, viciously beaten to death, is a bitter-sweet irony for Terre’blanche, a man whose time in prison was not for political reasons, but rather for assaulting and maiming two black men; Paul Motshabi, who was in his employ in 1997, and petrol attendant, John Ndzima. How ironic that this ‘kragdadige’ lived by the sword, and died by it.

Stories are emerging of how Terre’blanche ill-treated his own farm workers. If true it sheds light on the many cases of farm owners (predominantly white) who continue to maltreat farm workers, exploit their labour, rape women and girls, and dispossess families of their homes. Despite the laws protecting security of tenure of farm workers, the labour laws legislating hours of work and minimum wage standards for farm workers, or just the framework of basic human rights underpinning the political and civil rights of citizens in the public arena, many rural farmers operate in a feudal time-warp of ownership and social relations.

The political and physical isolation of rural towns provides an almost schizophrenic immunity from a South Africa that has moved on from apartheid, if only in legal terms.  Civil, political and social rights are often ignored in the social relations between black farm workers and white farmers as can be attested to by the many cases of assault, battery and even murder brought by black farm workers against white farmers.

So, given this sub-world of white Afrikaner feudalism still alive in South Africa’s rural hinterland, is it any wonder that the two farm workers accused of killing Terre’blanche, say he refused to pay them the paltry amount of R350 for a months’ work.

While the circumstances surrounding his death remains to be confirmed in court, and murder itself cannot be condoned, given rural social and economic relations, is it any wonder that Terreblanche was murdered in the way that he was? The master/servant relations underpinning social structures is alive and well in rural South Africa and underscores the continued struggle to organize rural farm workers.

Helga Jansen is a member of the Amandla! editorial staff

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