Revenge and retribution belong in the Stone Age

Watching a TV documentary on the state of the Afrikaner psyche 14 years after the end of apartheid in South Africa, I was fascinated, if not a little scared, by the portrait of Eugene Terre'Blanche, rated among the most unrepentant Afrikaners in the rainbow nation.

Watching a TV documentary on the state of the Afrikaner psyche 14 years after the end of apartheid in South Africa, I was fascinated, if not a little scared, by the portrait of Eugene Terre'Blanche, rated among the most unrepentant Afrikaners in the rainbow nation.

His language alone suggested there was bitterness of a particularly scabrous kind. At a very cynical level, you asked yourself the question: how does the man live with himself? It must be tough being Eugene Terre'Blanche in South Africa today.

The documentary ended with him riding off into the sunset, a la Gene Autry or Roy Rogers, on his trusted mount.

His parting shot was typical: nobody would move him off his land.

Some of us are not entirely familiar with the terror-riddled struggle for land in South Africa, except for the determination of the government not to repeat the tragic land grab Robert Mugabe launched in 2000.

People are apparently being killed in the farming sector of South Africa, most of them whites. There must be organised bands of embittered landless people going around inflicting terror on those they perceive to have subjected them to hundreds of years of land deprivation.

They, in an evil plot uncharacteristic of the mood that ushered in a period of reconciliation after 1994, might believe this mindless orgy is justified, but they are bound to reap the whirlwind.

South Africa is still a violent country struggling to shake off the apartheid legacy in which black and white set upon each other at the slightest provocation.

In spite of this, the world is looking forward to the 2010 World Soccer Cup in that country. President Thabo Mbeki has been accused by some of his compatriots of treating the crime crisis with the same strange lethargy with which he responded to the terrible HIV and Aids scourge.

His defeat in the ANC presidential stakes must have roused him from his political stupor and will hopefully spur him on to handle the crime and the Zimbabwe crises with more vigour and foresight. Any continuation of the lackadaisical pace of the past could be as dangerous as the state of Eugene Terre'Blanche's mind.

Revenge and retribution belong in the Stone Age - or to the Zimbabwean leaders who decided defeat at the polls on March 29 could be assuaged only by killing many unarmed opposition supporters.

South African leaders must be acutely aware that Africa and the rest of the world, almost unanimous in their wish for a tranquil transition from the violence of apartheid to democracy, hope they don't stumble and fall into a typical African maelstrom of death and destruction.

The next president of the republic could be Jacob Zuma, a man of such robust political and other tastes his reign might be too much for some people to stomach - in the short term.

But if he is chosen by the people as a whole, there can be no denying him his right to the big prize. As with any change of government, there might be rumblings of discontent initially.

Zuma, while touted as "the darling of the masses", could be hampered by political and social baggage that some might find unacceptable for someone in such a lofty position of influence.

South Africa must, nevertheless, guard against being presented, externally or internally, with circumstances that could unleash waves of political unrest triggered by extremists like Terre'Blanche or anti-Zuma zealots.

l The writer is deputy editor of The Standard in Zimbabwe

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