In a sign the ruling African National Congress had run out of patience with Youth League leader Julius Malema, accused by critics of stoking the tensions, the party condemned his behaviour and summoned him to explain himself.
As well as exposing the racial polarisation 16 years after the end of white minority rule, the murder has done nothing to improve South Africa’s violent reputation barely two months before it is due to host the soccer World Cup.
Two black farm workers have been charged with beating and hacking Terre’blanche to death last Saturday in what police suspect was a pay dispute. His party says it was politically motivated and blames Malema in part.
“Mr. Terre’blanche’s death is a time for us Boers (farmers) to take a stand and declare war against crime, especially farm murders,” said Andre Visagie, Secretary General of Terre’blanche’s Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB).
“We are going to exhaust every avenue of peaceful negotiations with the government but if that does not work we will fight for our own homeland.”
Terre’blanche, 69, was marginalised after his failed efforts to preserve apartheid in the early 1990s, and became even more of a fringe figure after a prison sentence for beating a black man nearly to death.
As the coffin was wheeled into the church, mourners sang the apartheid-era national anthem. With space limited, a few thousand supporters filled the streets of the small farming town of Ventersdorp, 100 km (60 miles) west of Johannesburg.
The old South African flag and the party’s flag — which resembles the Nazi swastika — fluttered from pickup trucks.
Police were out in force on streets where few black South Africans were to be seen. Some mourners, dressed in combat fatigues, muttered “housemaid” in Afrikaans when a black government minister paying official respects walked past.
The church lifted its usual “whites only” restriction to allow in black journalists.
President Jacob Zuma has urged calm and the AWB has ruled out violent reprisals, but some mourners were in militant mood.
“We are here today to declare war and avenge the death of our leader,” said one 46-year-old businessman from the northeastern Mpumalanga province who did not want to be named.
Few predict major trouble, though.
“To some extent Julius Malema and the AWB members are two sides of the same irrational coin,” said Aubrey Matshiqi of the Centre for Policy Studies.
“I do not believe South Africa is in the middle of a race crisis, not the kind that will lead to a racial civil war, but I am not suggesting we should not be concerned at all because even fringe groups and figures can do harm.”
Markets have paid little heed to the sound and fury and the rand is near a 20-month high against the dollar.
The murder has heightened a sense among AWB supporters — a tiny minority of the 10 percent of whites in a population of 48 million — that they are being targeted by the party that has ruled since apartheid ended in 1994.
Malema caused controversy last month when he sang a black liberation struggle song with the words “Kill the Boer” — now banned by the courts as hate speech.
The ANC has appeared reluctant to move against Malema, who has a passionate following within the Youth League and among some black South Africans who feel the end of apartheid should have delivered more.
But it reacted harshly on Friday to his defiance of a demand to avoid inflammatory comment and his expulsion of a British journalist from a news conference on Thursday. On camera, Malema called the reporter a bastard with a “white tendency”.
“The unfortunate outburst by comrade Julius Malema did not only reflect negatively on him, but also reflected negatively on the ANC YL, the entire ANC family, our Alliance partners as well as South Africa in the eyes of the international community,” said party spokesman Jackson Mthembu. Reuters