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The scarlet banners on the stage of Durban City Hall provide the setting for a huge silvery eagle, cobalt blue under the spotlights, perched on the same three-legged symbol. The placards on the streets outside, needing no further elucidation for most South Africans, black or white, announce: ''Eugene Terre Blanche speaks. It is , but the stage management, the cult of a personality preaching survival through racial exclusivism, would not have seemed strange in Hitler's Nuremberg. Eugene Terre Blanche, farmer and former policeman, demagogue of the far right of South African politics and self-appointed custodian of Afrikanerdom's soul, indeed appears, bringing his messianic visions of Afrikaner nationalism to the heart of English-speaking South Africa.

Laden with intimations of violence and scorning formal politics, Mr. To a packed hall of 1, whites, drawn by the beacon of his message, he speaks and roars, the cadences of his voice in the Afrikaans language recalling the oratory of Nazi Germany, plucking at the raw nerves of fear and confusion, offering an alternative to the nation's complexities and ambiguities - a state for the Afrikaner ''Volk,'' or nation. The Boerestaat will be a fatherland for those betrayed by President P. Botha, one in which there is no talk of power sharing or black rights; a place where history is reversed and redeemed; a land for the God-fearing scions of Boer farmer-warriors, as much entitled to their own, exclusive state as the British are entitled to Britain, or the French to France.

But who, these days, are the heirs to this proclaimed tradition? The September rally at Durban is unusual, a demonstration of support from predominantly English-speaking, middle-class whites. In small towns, it is more often blue-collar Afrikaners who rally to Mr. Terre Blanche's call and fill the collection boxes, which, along with sales of party fetishes and cassette recordings of his speeches, seem a principle source of funding.

Terre Blanche and his movement do not give an impression of great wealth. It is within the ranks of Afrikanerdom's largely urbanized working classes, suffering increasing unemployment - as well as small-time farmers struggling against years of drought - that Mr. Terre Blanche's message finds a clear echo, largely because these are the people who would be most threatened by any black advancement.

They are the people, too, who vote against the National Party of President Botha in favor of white, right-wing challengers, seeing the Government's policies of cautious racial reform - which have all but stalled because of their rejection by blacks -as a sellout of white interests that will strip them of the legislated shield of apartheid.

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They embody Afrikaner disenchantment, and their perceptible drift to the right wing of white politics has offered a counterpoint to the equally disturbing radicalization of the deprived black townships. In a way, Mr. Terre Blanche's assaults suit President Botha.

The A. How, they will say privately, can we be expected to move any faster without a secure constituency? Further alienation of the white right, they argue, would result in the destruction of the center and a return to the total exclusivism of former Prime Minister Hendrik F. Verwoerd, the principal architect of the apartheid system. At the same time, the argument goes, Mr. Terre Blanche is permitted to traverse the country, inciting audiences with his denouncements of President's Botha's policies, because his extremism and the regimented militarism of his followers alienates Afrikaners who might otherwise swing toward the recognized political parties of the right - the Conservative Party and the Reconstituted National Party.

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That is to say, if Mr. Terre Blanche didn't exist, he would almost have to be invented. The Government's calculation seems to be that his following is not yet so strong or so dangerous as to prompt action against him. But the A. B is not dismissed today as the lunatic fringe group it was once considered. If the conflict within South Africa continues to escalate, further dividing Afrikaner opinion, the A.

May was a month of euphoria for Mr. Terre Blanche and one of trepidation for the South African authorities, confronted with the largest-ever display of white right-wing resistance. Terre Blanche's followers stormed the stage - using much the same tactics as the National Party before its election victory in A week or so later, atop a hill outside Pretoria, under the shadow of the Voortrekker Monument - Afrikanerdom's holiest shrine - at least 8, conservative Afrikaners who had gathered under parasols to celebrate a common history and hear a gospel of racial separatism gave the most fervent applause to Mr.

Terre Blanche, who arrived late, flanked by bodyguards. Some commentators like to suggest that South Africa's far right is now in eclipse. Certainly, since the A. B's shows of strength in May, the right-wing movement as a whole has been undermined by the declaration of Pretoria's newest emergency decree. The edict, which authorized detentions without trial and strengthened security and censorship measures, exploded the assertion that President Botha had gone soft on black protest.

Moreover, the imposition of sanctions by the United States and other countries has, some Afrikaners believe, strengthened the Government's hand in its dealings with the right, offering President Botha an opportunity to rally white chauvinists to his side against foreign pressures and, implicitly, against his right-wing critics. Terre Blanche and his aides maintain that the number of A.

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Thousands more whites have turned out, for reasons of curiosity or conviction, for his rallies. In his brown leather jacket, collar and tie, he might be any traveler. Eugene Terre Blanche is sleeping because after the speech in Durban, his followers and supporters kept him up until 3 A. Durban was a potentially risky venture, a move onto alien, English-speaking turf, far from the Afrikaner heartlands of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.

Yet it was a triumph in the numerical games politicians play to gauge their popularity. The audience numbered 1, at a time of no special excitement; last year, even President Botha drew only 1, when the nation was thirsting for word from him of some new direction. On stage at City Hall, Mr. Terre Blanche was vibrant, fired with his own oratory, aglow. Here, in his ecomony-class seat, he seems smaller, and it is as if those moments, drawing on the agonies and fears and excitements of his audience, were his inspiration, an alchemy that transformed the man into a messiah.

During an interview, the year-old Mr. Terre Blanche seems more complex than the fierce orator of his public appearances - a man afflicted by doubts that are not articulated, striving to match humble roots with a grand vision. He is not, he says, a Hitler clone, but an Afrikaner nationalist - a claim disputed by some Afrikaner critics, who say that even as a schoolboy he seemed obsessed with the history of Nazi Germany. Before he speaks, the meeting halls reverberate with martial music similar to that used by imagery packagers for Hitler; his salute is the brusque, open-palmed gesture of the Fuhrer himself.

Publicly, his personality towers over his movement: without him and his oratory, it is debatable whether the A. Privately, he depicts himself as a man without choices, propelled by the dictates of a people's very struggle for survival.


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At the close of the meeting in Durban, after the standing ovation, a hundred or so whites of all ages had formed a line at the stage steps to shake the hand of the man who offered the vision. Some had asked him ''When do you want us to take up arms?


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  • It was, Mr. Terre Blanche said of the event, a triumphant foray into a city tinged with liberalism and multiracialism, where whites and Indians seem almost at ease with one another. The labels are those of apartheid, which divides people at birth into the official categories of white, black, Indian and colored, or of mixed racial descent. The Durban gathering had shown, he seemed to suggest, the depth of white South Africa's yearning for a return, not simply to the canons of Verwoerdian apartheid, but to something far beyond that - to the life of a century or more ago, perceived through the rose glow of nostalgia, when the frontiersmen of Afrikanerdom, defying the blacks and the British colonists alike, set up their own Boer Republics in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.

    Speaking of pressures the state faces to share power with blacks, Mr. Terre Blanche said: ''We will be there when this Government capitulates, that you can be sure of. We will take back our land and we will immediately give our people a people's state. If this Government hands over its power to enforce law and order, and law and order perishes, we will not run like the people of Angola or Mozambique did, or like in the rest of Africa.

    We will destroy them. Terre Blanche seeks to situate his sovereign Afrikaner nation in South Africa's wealthiest agricultural and mining lands - the Transvaal, the Orange Free State and northern Natal, as a polity excised from the rest of South Africa, abandoning the Cape and much of Natal to those who seek multiracialism.

    After all, to take over the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, a challenger would come up against not only the Government, but the mining barons producing the nation's golden wealth. A formal coup d'etat seems similarly improbable. Terre Blanche has his own paramilitary units with names like ''storm falcons'' and ''fire watch,'' and doubtless, he has many supporters on the police force. Doubtless, also, his words stir passions in a nation caught between a past defined by the immutable precepts of Grand Apartheid and a future without such coordinates.

    But he does not have the might, politically or militarily, to challenge the state. Yet in the turmoil that has seized South Africa anew in recent years, Mr. Terre Blanche's very excesses seem to mirror the nation's turbulence.

    Once monolithic, Afrikanerdom has splintered, its unity fragmented to the right by the breakaway of white conservatism, and to the left by the still-muted murmurs of dissent from Afrikaner academics and others ready to countenance concessions to the black majority. President Botha's National Party clearly holds the center ground of the nation's dominant three million Afrikaners, who have held power since and who trace their ancestry to the Dutch settlers who arrived in the Cape in But for Mr.

    Botha, the Afrikaner constituency is not the same solid body of opinion that supported apartheid's architects, and neither is his an unchallenged supremacy. The time now is PM. Contact Us - Martinlutherking. Recent Entries.

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