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South African farmworker guilty of murdering white employer

A teen companion is acquitted in the killing of white supremacist leader Eugene TerreBlanche, which had sparked fears of racial unrest

May 23, 2012|By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times
  • Defendant Chris Mahlungu awaits the verdict in his trial in the killing of his employer, South African white supremacist Eugene TerreBlanche, in court in Ventersdorp. Mahlungu was convicted of murder.
Defendant Chris Mahlungu awaits the verdict in his trial in the killing… (Stephane De Sakutin / AFP/Getty…)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A 29-year-old farmworker was convicted Tuesday of the murder of South African white supremacist leader Eugene TerreBlanche, but his teenage companion was acquitted in the killing, which had sparked fears of racial violence.

Chris Mahlangu was found guilty of killing TerreBlanche, his employer and longtime advocate of a separate state for white Afrikaners. Patrick Ndlovu, 18, who was 15 and present at the slaying, was found guilty of housebreaking with intent to steal.

The main evidence against Ndlovu in the killing was ruled inadmissible by the court because police failed to deal with him correctly as a minor.

The April 2010 killing, coming months before South Africa hosted soccer's World Cup, so raised fears of racial conflict that President Jacob Zuma took the unusual step of issuing a statement in the middle of the night calling for calm. But while racial divisions remain entrenched in South Africa, the TerreBlanche case did not become a catalyst for white right-wing violence that many had feared.

TerreBlanche was leader of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, or AWB, which even before the end of apartheid had advocated independence for Afrikaners, who are descendants of mostly Dutch settlers. By the time of his death, the group was politically marginalized.

TerreBlanche was found on his bed at his farm in North West province, clubbed to death and with his pants pulled down. Both Mahlangu and Ndlovu, who surrendered to police after the killing, pleaded not guilty.

The crime occurred after the ruling African National Congress' youth league president, Julius Malema, popularized the song "Shoot the Boer," a reference to white farmers. After the slaying, AWB leader Andre Visagie threatened revenge, calling it a declaration of war against whites.

But it soon became evident that the killing was related to a dispute over wages rather than politics, and the AWB failed to mobilize support. Malema was later convicted of hate speech over the song and has since been suspended from the ANC for lack of party discipline.

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