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Song, killing raise racial tensions in South Africa

The country, about to get the global spotlight for hosting the World Cup, is roiled by an anti-white farmer ditty and the death of supremacist Eugene TerreBlanche.

April 10, 2010|By Robyn Dixon

Chris Van Zyl of the Transvaal Agricultural Union said in a phone interview that in one recent case, a man's soles were stripped from his feet while alive. An elderly woman's breasts were sliced off; another was gang-raped. Another was raped with a broken bottle.

The police and government have no statistics on farm killings. Van Zyl's group has recorded 1,266 slayings and 2,070 attacks since 2001. Other groups say more than 3,000 farmers have been killed in the last 16 years.

Van Zyl said that 78 farmers were killed in 2008, 55 last year and 19 this year, and that nonfatal attacks had increased dramatically. Most victims were elderly people on isolated farms.

He said the extreme violence suggested racial hatred and that the "Shoot the Boer" song was fueling that sentiment.

"Emotions are being charged against white and Boers, who are white farmers. I think there's been a deliberate effort to portray farmers as racist and violent people by political groups and COSATU," he said, referring to the congress of trade unions affiliated with the ANC.

Analyst Gumede said one reason for the ANC's shift on the song was Zuma's political vulnerability. The president had promised favors to people such as Malema who helped him get elected.

Malema is powerful in the party because he mobilized apathetic youths to support the ANC in last year's national election, analysts say.

Gumede said politicians such as Malema were exploiting an explosive situation for their own gain, and to shift attention away from the government's failure to deliver on services, a major source of social tension.

"Shoot the Boer" "was a song that was part and parcel of the liberation struggle," Gumede said. "It's out of context now and it's now being abused."

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