Many parts of this article are from the book “Victory or violence: The Story of the AWB of South Africa”, by Arthur Kemp.
Eugene Ney Terre’Blanche was born on 31 January 1944 in the dry western Transvaal, and was killed the 3rd April 2010 in Ventersdorp, at his farm, by two of his black workers.
Terre’Blanche was raised in a deeply devout traditional Boer Protestant household. His grandfather was one of the “Cape rebels” - those Afrikaners who took up arms for the Boer cause during the Second Boer War of Liberation (1899 - 1902), although they lived in the British controlled Cape Province and not in the independent Boer Republics - and settled in the Transvaal after the conclusion of the war. Terre’Blanche still runs the family farm in Ventersdorp, which he inherited from his father who died in 1985.
The family is originally French, and their name, loosely translated, means “White Earth” - a play on words that has often been used by Terre’Blanche himself. His wife, Martie, originally from South West Africa (now Namibia), ran a number of modelling schools in the Western Transvaal. Their only child, Bea, was adopted.
Terre’Blanche’s great drawing power came virtually exclusively from his oratorical abilities, which have on more than occasion been compared to Hitler’s. There is certainly no doubt that Terre’Blanche's oratory was unsurpassed by any of his contemporaries, left or right.
Despite the establishment media having given him as little publicity as possible, his speaking abilities and the rumour thereof alone managed to draw huge audiences across the country, even in traditionally liberal areas. More than once unhappy National Party organisers were heard to complain that “many people who go out of curiosity to a Terre’Blanche meeting end up being converted to his cause just after hearing him speak.”
Terre'Blanche’s voice was part of the secret - it was deep, rich and overpowering. His normal delivery was loud and deep, building to a screaming crescendo with rhythmic repetitious and long sentences. A favourite tactic was to suddenly drop his voice to a whisper so that the audience literally held its breath so as not to miss a word, and then to suddenly launch into a loud crescendo. It is true what many a journalist has written of Terre’Blanche - he could hold an audience spellbound even if he were reciting a telephone directory.
Terre’Blanche never searched for a word when making a speech - this despite the fact that many of his speeches were not written out in full before delivery. In fact more than once the basic speech was jotted down on the back of a cigarette pack during the introductory part of a meeting.
Terre’Blanche also used his undoubted talent for drama and poetry, in his speeches to great effect. It is not well known that, before he became well known politically, he received three awards from the respected Afrikaans establishment Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuurvereniging (Afrikaans Language and Cultural Union) for best writer, actor and director of his play “Iewers Langs die Pad” (“Somewhere Along the Road”). Other works of his have been studied at University level, while a drama in three acts which he wrote in the middle 1970’s about Boer history (Sybrand die Watermaker - Sybrand the Water Maker) was widely acclaimed and was for a long time a prescribed set work book in schools in South Africa - even though most people reading the book did not know who the author “E.N. Terre’Blanche” really was.
His interest in politics started at school in Ventersdorp where he was chairman of the debating society and captain of the school's first rugby team, achieving Western Transvaal rugby colours. It was also at school that he started his own Afrikaner cultural organization, Jong Afrikanerharte (Young Afrikaner Hearts).
After school Terre’Blanche served in the South African Police where he reached the rank of warrant officer. For a time he was assigned to the Special Guard Unit, which protects all members of the cabinet.
While in the police he was also chairman of the Police’s Cultural Group, and took part in many of that group’s drama performances.
Terre’Blanche was a supporter of the NP (Nasionale Party - National Party) until was Prime Minister of the RSA Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd (1966). In 1969, in disagreement with the first radical change in the policy of this party, he was among the founding members of the HNP (Herstigte Nasionale Party - Reconstituted National Party).
Terre'Blanche subsequently resigned from the police, and worked for a while at Rondalia, an Afrikaner run holiday resort association.
In the RSA’s general election of the 22nd April 1970, Terre’Blanche stood for the HNP in the eastern Transvaal seat of Heidelberg.
The 7th July 1973, in Heidelberg, Eugene Terre’Blanche and six other men, Jan Groenewald, the two brothers JJ and DJ Jordaan, Piet Preller, Renier Oosthuizen and Kobus Strydom, founded the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), a nationalist extra-parliamentary Boer movement, independentist and Christian, opposed to the communist forces and to international capitalism, then subsequently will equip itself with paramilitary structures.
Over the years the AWB came to be the more involved Boer movement, and was the only Boer movement to actively oppose the creation of a single regime in southern Africa, till to take up arms and to carry out guerrilla warfare.
In 1994, while all leaders, on the Boer independist front same as on the Zulu and other black nations, surrendered, or even betrayed, to ensure a future for themselves on the skin of their people, Eugene Terre’Blanche and AWB continued to fight for freedom, as they had promised. A very difficult road, full of smear campaigns, mass arrests, judicial persecution and death.
In 2000 Terre’Blanche was sentenced to serve one year in prison on charges of assaulting a black man. On the 30th March he appeared in black suit (like the Ystergarde - Iron Guard - the paramilitary elite force of the AWB), in the saddle of Attila, his black horse, in front of the gates of the Potchefstroom prison. And there, he promised that the prison would not have weaken him, and said to wait him because he would be back, back in the saddle to lead the struggle. And so he did, greeted by AWB’s men, but only on 11th June 2004 on parole. In 2001, in fact, after having been temporarily put in freedom, was sentenced to others 5 years in prison (after having lost yet another appeal on matter), on charges of attempted murder of a his black worker. All these accusations were always rejected by Terre’Blanche and the AWB, which at that time stated that: “[Terre’Blanche] is not guilty of this crime and was jailed because he is regarded as a threat to the new ‘democracy’ in South Africa; the new suppressing communist regime had to find a way to isolate him.” These allegations were also used to support and propagate the idea that Terre’Blanche and the AWB were motivated by racial hate. When, in contrast, Terre’Blanche and the AWB had always expressed and fought for a southern Africa that would guarantee freedom and independence to all nations who historically inhabit it. Suffice it to think to the mission of the AWB in Bophuthatswana (in 1994) to support its independence, or to the alliance of the AWB with the Inkatha of Zulu (officially stipulated in 1993).
Terre’Blanche spent his detention mainly in the Rooigrond prison, near Mafeking, after spending a few days in that of Potchefstroom, during his first period of detention.
In 2003, while he was in prison, was sentenced for terrorism, for actions performed by the AWB in the 1994. For these acts was sentenced to six years, suspended on parole. So the regime imprisoned him, but officially: for common crimes, not for the battle that he had conducted and led, seeking to free his people.
Terre’Blanche in 2008 began to hold meetings and the AWB announced that it has restarted. Among other initiatives, the AWB was willing to submit documents to the International Court of Justice of The Hague, to claim the right of the Boer nation on some lands in southern Africa.
Terre’Blanche gave everything for the Boer nation, and for this has been the target of smear campaigns, he was imprisoned, and at the end he was killed.
He was a true patriot and a true Christian, a born leader, brave (and not just with words), used to being at the forefront, able to speak to people, and to rise his nation. And probably: he was assassinated for that.