It is understandable that when one of South Africa’s best-known racist is murdered on his farm, that there are some people who will read racism into his murder. It even suits the political agenda of some people who campaign against the murder of white farmers by black people.

But no matter how racist AWB leader Eugene Terre’Blanche was, and even if his alleged killers were black, that does not necessarily make it a racist killing. This is of course the easy route to take and, unfortunately, most of our political leadership in South Africa, across political parties, is so poor at the moment that they will unfortunately take this route more often than not.

From the evidence at the time of writing this blog, it appeared that Terre’Blance was killed by two of his workers in an argument over unpaid wages. This would then rather make his killing an economic issue, as opposed to a race issue.

Yes, we understand that many white farmers have been killed, and most of the time black people were responsible. But this still does not mean that farmers are targeted because they are white. And it does not mean that the people who attack them are doing it because they are blacks who hate whites.

It could simply be a matter of farmers being attacked because, rightly or wrongly, they are seen to represent privilege and wealth in areas where there is not a lot of privilege and wealth. And the people who attack them could merely be trying to get their hands on some of this perceived privilege and wealth.

Of course, there are political parties who are licking their lips at the opportunity presented by Terre’Blanche’s death to take a swipe at the ANC and their perceived stance against white people, fuelled by stupid utterances by people such as Julius Malema.

But these people also look for racism where it does not exist, because it suits their purposes. The more divided our society is, the better it suits their political agenda.

Real political leaders will use opportunities like this to unite our people, as opposed to dividing them. But I don’t know how real our political leaders are.

Our political leaders should be talking about how important it is for us to mourn yet another senseless killing in our already violent society. They should be talking about how all of us should be fighting crime and how one murder is one too many.

They should be talking about how important it is for all of us, irrespective of race, to sympathise with Terre’Blanche’s family. They should be talking about how, at times of crisis like this, we need to reach out to our fellow South Africans of all races even more.
They should be reminding us of how far we have come as a nation and not to let stupid acts like this destroy our hard-won democracy.

Of course, there are people who will accuse me of not living in the real world and not being in touch with reality.

They are entitled to their opinions but I sincerely believe that, like Chris Hani’s death, we need to turn this negative situation into a positive. If we are able to do this, imagine the irony that, in his death, Eugene Terre’Blance would have done more to unite South Africans than in all the time he was alive.


  • Ryland Fisher is former editor of the Cape Times and author of the book Race. This is his second book, following on Making the Media Work for You, which was published in 2002. He is executive chairperson of the Cape Town Festival, which he initiated while editor of the Cape Times in 1999 as part of the One City Many Cultures project. He received an international media award for this project in New York in October 2006. His personal motto is "bringing people together", which was the theme of One City Many Cultures. It remains the theme of the Cape Town Festival and is the theme of Race. Ryland has worked in and with government, in the media for more than 25 years, in the corporate sector, in NGOs and in academia. Ultimately, however, he describes himself as "just a souped-up writer".


Ryland Fisher

Ryland Fisher is former editor of the Cape Times and author of the book Race. This is his second book, following on Making the Media Work for You, which was published in 2002. He is...

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