S.African white extremist's murder accused plead not guilty

10th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

The two black farm workers accused of bludgeoning to death South African white supremacist Eugene Terre'Blanche pleaded not guilty Monday as their trial opened.

The workers -- Chris Mahlangu, 29, and a 16-year-old -- are accused of hacking to death the co-founder of the far-right Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) at his farmhouse outside Ventersdorp on April 3, 2010.

Norman Arendse, the lawyer for the minor, who cannot be named under South African law, told the court that the boy was a victim of child labour and had been abused by Terre'Blanche.

He said the teenager was verbally, physically and even sexually abused.

"Most witnesses are reluctant to testify on these allegations. The main reason appears to be naked fear and intimidation," he told the court.

"Fear that they will lose the little they earn, and fear that they will lose the roof over their head and the food they receive for working on the farms."

The murder last year had sparked angry exchanges between AWB supporters and black locals outside the courthouse, but more than one year later tensions have eased.

A large media contingent outnumbered a group of about 20 AWB supporters gathered for the hearing in the northwestern town.

The group flew the apartheid-era South African flag and put up posters with slogans like "our farmer Afrikaner blood", printed over the image of an old white man with bloodied hands.

Mahlangu was briefly brought into the courtrooom before the start of the trial for pictures, but was taken out again when he became angry with photographers.

There were few black people outside the court building, in stark contrast to the emotional protests which characterised the first appearance last year.

Terre'Blanche's brother Andries was also in court, but refused to comment.

Family and AWB spokesman Johan Potgieter told journalists they wanted the heaviest possible sentence for the alleged killers.

"We want a life-time sentence without a case of parole," he said. "We won't allow that they murder our leaders or wish us away."

The 69-year-old Terre'Blanche's head was beaten with a knob-headed stick, and a machete was found still embedded in his flesh. His genitals were also exposed.

The two suspects handed themselves in to police after the killing, saying they had fought with their employer over pay, which reportedly was 300 rand (41 dollars, 30 euros) a month.

The young boy's lawyer told court that the case was extraordinary because the accused did not flee or tried to disturb the murder scene.

According to the state attorney, George Baloyi, Mahlangu had been working for Terre'Blanche for five months and his duties included herding cattle and doing gardening for the AWB leader's wife.

The minor had been employed for just over a month.

Terre'Blanche's movement accuses local black politicians of planning the white supremacist's murder.

"They want to take our farms, our jobs. Do you want to call that working with the boers (Afrikaners)? I don't think that," said Potgieter.

The AWB movement violently opposed South Africa's all-race democracy, staging bomb attacks ahead of the 1994 polls that brought in Nelson Mandela as the first black president.

Since then, it has faded to the fringe of South African society.

The trial is set down for ten days, after it was postponed several times since last year.

© 2011 AFP

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