Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 12th 2013 Contents B8
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, December 12, 2013
In Ventersdorp, once known as the
base for white extremism in South
Africa and the home of late white
supremacist leader Eugene Terre-
blanche, BBC corrrespondent Fergal
Keane found people publicly mourn-
ing for Nelson Mandela.
On a hot still day in the southern
summer, Ventersdorp can seem a for-
The poor of the town beg at shop
entrances or ask for a few rand as they
direct cars into parking spaces.
To somebody who knew the town
in the old days of white supremacy,
what is striking is that the beggars are
both black and white.
They compete for the compassion
Two hours west of Johannesburg on
the platteland (literally the "flatlands"),
Ventersdorp was once notorious as the
headquarters of white extremism in
The neo-Nazi AWB---Afrikaner
Resistance Movement---and its leader,
Eugene Terreblanche, were based here.
Journalists would regularly drive there
to hear Terreblanche fulminate against
Nelson Mandela and threaten to "tram-
ple the ANC into the gravel".
It was here on the night of August
9 1991 that I witnessed a fatal clash
between the AWB and the police, the
first time in apartheid history that state
security forces opened fire on white
Three right-wingers and a passer-
by were killed. A black family was sur-
rounded and attacked in a minibus and
After that, Ventersdorp sat in my
memory as a place of fear.
But today, the AWB is fractured and
irrelevant and Ventersdorp town council
is governed by the African National
Eugene Terreblanche is dead, mur-
dered by a farm worker three years ago.
Black South Africans no longer walk
the streets as subservient beings.
For black resident Nick Bergman,
destroying the climate of fear was Man-
dela s greatest legacy.
Like the rest of the town s black res-
idents we met, he feels bereft at the
ANC leader s passing: "Madiba has
done so much. I can t even tell you in
"The thing I can tell you is that his
death has caused pain in my heart...
I feel empty without him."
But for all the change of the last 20
years, Ventersdorp was the one place
in all of South Africa where I struggled
to imagine Afrikaners publicly mourn-
ing the death of Mandela.
I was wrong. At the Dutch Reformed
Church on Cochrane Street, I watched
the old and the young stand in silence
to remember Mandela.
The pastor, Gerrit Strydom, served
as a soldier patrolling the black town-
ships during the violence of the tran-
The Dutch Reformed Church pro-
vided a religious justification for
apartheid; its ministers once preached
that blacks were inferior beings, the
"hewers of wood and drawers of water"
of the Book of Joshua in the Old Tes-
Strydom believes Mandela taught
Afrikaners the value of reconciliation.
"After all the years we had him in
prison, he could have turned around
and made South Africa a bad place for
"But Nelson Mandela was the one
guy who brought people together."
However, it would be foolish to imag-
ine that Ventersdorp has evolved into
a paradise of racial harmony.
Given the centuries of bloody history
and the trauma of the recent past, there
is still much that divides black and
white people in the area.
In many respects, the rhythms of
rural life have hardly changed.
On the farms it is still the whites
who own the best land and the black
people who work as their labourers and
White farmers repeatedly speak of
the fear of being attacked on their prop-
Even among white farmers who
respect Mandela, there is anxiety about
the future and a burgeoning sense of
grievance at perceived discrimination
against white people.
On his 730-acre farm outside Ven-
tersdorp, Derrick Allem says he has
stayed in South Africa because Mandela
gave him faith in the future of the coun-
try. But he has little faith in the new
generation of leaders.
"I think what he [Mandela] wanted
was for everybody to have opportuni-
ties, and a good and fair life for every-
"I don t think he wanted to suppress.
That is what he said. No nation should
suppress another nation, no matter
• Continues on Page B9
Mandela mourned in
After all the years
we had him in
prison, he could
have turned around
and made South
Africa a bad place
for our people. But
was the one guy
--- Pastor Gerrit
Late South African white extremist leader Eugene Terreblanche was one of Mandela's most strident
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