The Boer Race Consciousness and the Murder of Terreblanche

Racial tensions are nothing new for South Africa. After shedding its 300 year status as an apartheid regime with the historic agreement between Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk in 1994, the integration of whites and blacks has not been easy. Today, the country remains one of the most dangerous in the world, with 18,000 murders per year. (A stunning and probably not very inaccurate portrayal of this violence is presented by J.M. Coetzee in his novel Disgrace.)

Then, last Saturday, on April 3, came the murder of Eugene Terreblanche, who was hacked to death by two black youths in his own home, supposedly over a wages dispute. Terreblanche was a notorious figure in South African politics – a self-styled demagogue and pro-apartheid activist, with unabashedly racist views and a love for showmanship. A descendant of the Boer colonists who first settled in South Africa in the 18th century, his grandfather had fought in the Second Boer War (1899-1902), in which the Boers unsuccessfully sought to maintain their independence from British rule. Since the 1994 deal, Terrenblanche and his paramilitary Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) threatened and engaged in terrorist acts, setting off bombs in Johannesburg that killed 21 people and unsuccessfully invading the tribal land of Bophuthatswana. 



It is hard to say whether Terreblanche’s murder was really caused by a personal dispute or whether his politics simply angered one too many people. His death has caused a rise of tensions in the country, with a stand off happening between AWB and ANC supporters outside the courthouse where the suspects were being arraigned. Adding fuel to the fire, days before the murder ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, a controversial figure himself, was mired in a scandal for singing a song called ‘Shoot the Boer.’ To the ANC’s anger, the Constitutional Court labeled this act as hate speech and banned it, likely under pressure from the mainly white Freedom Front Plus party. 

Aside from bringing to the fore the continuing disharmony between the white and black populations in the country, perhaps these news can also lead us to reflect more on the history of white colonialism in this part of the world and the legacy it left to us today. It is in this context that it may be especially helpful to turn to Hannah Arendt’s monumental work The Origins of Totalitarianism, and specifically to the haunting but little-known few pages in the second part of that work – Imperialism – that she dedicated to the Boers. 

In their isolation from European civilization, the Boer colonists found themselves living in a harsh, inhospitable environment. With the poor soil making farming impossible, they resorted to cattle-raising; this in turn made it necessary for the settlers to live at great distances from one another. Spread out over wide swaths of land, the first Boer families developed into extensive clans with only one thing in common: their horror and revulsion at already finding another race of people living on the same land in a suspended state of primitiveness. Even after enslaving many of the natives, the Boers could never subject the entire population, leaving them perpetually afraid of a “species of men whom human pride and the sense of human dignity could not allow them to accept as fellow-men” (192). Generation after generation of living as exploiters of slave-labor in a society oriented entirely around race reduced the Boers themselves to a form of primitivism that came to resemble the very condition they first found the natives in. “The Boers lived on their slaves exactly the same way natives had lived on an unprepared and unchanged nature. When the Boers, in their fight and misery, decided to use these savages as though they were just another form of animal life, they embarked upon a process which could only end with their own degeneration into a white race living beside and together with black races from whom in the end they would differ only in the color of their skin” (194).

Resistance fighters during the Second Anglo-Boer war


The Origins of Totalitarianism was written during the late 1940s, but its analysis of the Boer attitude to the native population remains a penetrating one. As Arendt summed up, “Their race consciousness today is violent not only because they have nothing to lose save their membership in the white community, but also because the race concept seems to define their own condition much more adequately than it does of their former slaves.” While modern day followers of people like Terreblanche may have more to lose than just their standing as people of the white community, their condition certainly seems to continue being defined by the race concept.

8 thoughts on “The Boer Race Consciousness and the Murder of Terreblanche

  1. You know, I do not often get upset by misleading information and blatant false journalism… But this article really got my blood boiling!

    When people claim to be writing about Politics, Philosophy, History, Literature, & Culture, I suppose you should expect that depending on the view from which it is approached you may find someone’s twisted ideas of the truth… But HISTORY is something so simple, if you really want to do a bit of research, it is ALWAYS possible to find the truth… If you want to!

    It is a blatant fact that you have just placed an article that stinks worse than a truckload of rotten eggs! Do yourself a favour and go and do some research!

    The Boer nation is an EXTREMELY religious and very patient nation, our culture is NOT violent, and just by the way, the Boers are actually people who usually did their own work – themselves! They were not pampered, polished dandys and Barbie dolls… Unlike the British and the Cape Dutch (also called Afrikaners today). The Boers worked hard, but they were honest, and having a Boer to back you, you could be sure to survive! Why don’t you go and check up why Boers ever had to kill any of those “poor” indigenous people that just happened to reach the same pastures about the same time as the Boerevolk? They had to DEFEND THEMSELVES! Just like today!
    Those black marrauding masses” paths were littered with dead carcasses of the people they killed along theyr way down, from their own origins – around today’s Nigeria! They do things pretty much the way they STILL do things in Africa! The Boers biggest mistake was to HELP those people, to feed them, give them an education, to give them medicine… And as it always goes with anything in nature, rabbits for instance, when they do not have enough natural enemies, you end up with a population explosion… And before we knew it, we were kicked out and told we are the nasties… By the real nasties!

    I hope you will attend the WC Football, then with a little luck you will experience the “taste of Africa” first hand!

    Wake up, and do some research! There is a saying, when you don’t know anything, SHUT UP! People may think you are a fool, but when you open your mouth you may just PROVE you are a fool!

  2. Boereprinses,

    I’m sorry to see that you think history is “something so simple” that the only thing keeping truth from making itself known is a lack of research. Then historians must be an especially lazy group of people if the research of hundreds of their generations still hasn’t been able to produce a history that they all can agree on.

    I suggest taking a step back for a moment and looking closely at what I wrote. Nowhere do I claim that the violence in South Africa is all one sided, as evidenced both by my high regard for Coetzee’s novel and my criticism of Malema’s provocations. But no, I also don’t see white South Africans as only the victims at the hands of the “black marauding masses,” who were unable to appreciate a ‘genuine’ civilizing mission on the part of the pious settlers. If you think that extreme religiosity and violence are somehow mutually exclusive, then I not only have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you, but also a couple of history textbooks to start with.

    But really, the nature of your own comments beautifully proves Arendt’s point. So the native SA population are not only a bunch of black marauders, but also are like rabbits that need some kind of ‘natural enemy’? Thanks for making the argument of my post all the more vivid!

  3. I agree with Boereprinses. Your grasp of the South – African history needs a bit of fine tuning.

    Being not from Africa, not growing up in this environment, or experiencing the multi – racial harmony in this country; you have no idea what is happening.

    You mention slave labour, conducted by the Boere nation. That is absolutely untrue!

    Let me elaborate. After the battle of blood river, the then new king of the Zulu’s approached Andries Pretoruis (Leader of the Volksraad at that stage) to help his impi’s to grow crop. The Zulu nation was traditionally cattle herders, and he wanted his nation to grow crop to be able to feed his growing nation. The Boere nation excepted and their was a transaction done, where the farm owners PAID the Zulu’s for services rendered!

    If you see that as slave labour, then we have a problem in the world. Then every person working in the world, is the tool of slave labour.

    The fire of crime that is sweeping through South – Africa at this stage is the biggest mistake that the current ANC government made during the Apartheid years. They where trying to make the country ungovernable. The youth of the late 70’s and 80’s where taught and Encouraged to steal, murder, and run wild with crime.

    The same murdering, corrupt youths of the 80’s are all in government now. How do we solve the problem?

    There is a way, and the I believe that the Boere nation with their faith and honesty, can help to solve it.

    • Hennie,

      That the Boers relied on the extra cheap labor of local tribesmen is not historical fiction at all. This relationship between the two groups gave rise to such legislature as the 1809 Hottentot Proclamation, passed by the British administration, that among other things made it illegal for natives to leave the farms they worked on without their masters’ permission. By any modern measure this would be considered equal to slavery (waged or not), or at the very least, serfdom. Later on, the British outlawing slavery in 1833 was one of the main reasons for the Boers’ Great Trek inland.

      This has all been documented in numerous sources, which I can direct you to, if you wish.

  4. First I will address the horrendous lie that the Great Trek was allegedly prompted in part by slavery. This is in fact not true at all because as Professor Wallace Mills [ including the Encyclopedia Britannica ] most of the Boers of the frontier did not own slaves. The vast majority of the slave owners were the Cape Dutch of the Western Cape who did not even go on the Great Trek. So if the Great Trek had anything at all to do with slavery then why did not the Cape Dutch Trek? The motivation for the Great Trek was over the high handed approach of British Colonialism [ which the Boers rejected MUCH more then the pro Colonial Cape Dutch ] & the constant border wars including the fact that the neighbouring Xhosa tribe was attacking & killings Boers. The Boers developed from the Trekboers who were nomadic pastoralists who had a strong aversion to authority & developed a fierce anti-colonial outlook & were very independence oriented. The following is an excerpt from Professor Wallace Mills concerning the true reasons for the Great Trek.

    Quote: [ Piet Retief’s Manifesto.

    – Retief was one of the most influential of the Great Trek leaders. Among those who joined the Great Trek, he was a bit unusual in a couple of respects. He was much better off than most trekkers; at one time he owned over 20 lots in Grahamstown as well as farm properties. As can be seen from his letter (it was translated for publication in the Grahamstown Journal), he was better educated than most who were illiterate or just barely literate.

    – Retief’s so-called manifesto has too often been accepted uncritically and without analysis of context. Not all the assertions can be accepted at face value. It must be analysed carefully and critically.

    – for example, the complaint about the abolition of slavery and the process of compensation for a long time went unexamined and was repeated innumerable times as a factor in the trek (by both friends and critics).

    -however, investigation revealed that slavery was not common in the eastern frontier areas from which almost all the Voortrekkers came. Besides, no new slaves could be imported after 1807 and the prices of the existing slaves had risen markedly. Very few (if any) Voortrekkers had ever owned slaves. Retief’s only known connection was that at one time he had borrowed money from an ex-slave woman!

    Shutting down of migration after 1780s.

    – the earlier expansion had left some land not taken up behind the leading edges and the pushing back of the Xhosa in the early wars in the 19th C had made some land available (however, the 1820 settlers had also been assigned much of that); nevertheless, the voracious appetite for land among trekboers meant that by the 1830s, landlessness had grown. In effect, the on-going migration that had characterised the 18th C had been dammed up for almost 50 years. Thus, the Great Trek can be viewed as the bursting of the dam. Thus, the Great Trek can be seen as merely the resumption of the earlier process.

    – this interpretation is supported by the fact that late in the 19th C when the problem of landlessness again reemerged in the South African Republic (Transvaal), a couple of attempts were made to organize new treks farther into the interior (into Zimbabwe or Angola). These efforts were blocked by Rhodes who wanted to ensure that it was the British Empire that got these areas. ]

    Text found at this link.

    One must remember that the Boers were accused of supporting slavery for much the same reasons that the Southrons were during the War Between the States / ie: the so called Civil War. It had nothing to do with any authentic desire on the part of the Boers [ or Southrons whom only 5 % ever own slaves ] to own slaves but was PROPAGANDA designed to repel anyone from assisting the Boers in their struggles against Colonial imperialism because by tarring them with the slave issue few would want to intervene to aid them in their struggles to remain independent in Africa or to find self determination.

    The following is what author Stephen Crane noted.

    Quote: [ As far back as 1809, Hottentots were prohibited from wandering about the country without passes, and from 1812, Hottentot children who had been maintained for eight years by the employers of their parents, were bound as apprenticed for ten years longer. The missionaries were dissatisfied with these restrictions; both of them were removed by an ordinance passed July, 1828, when vagrant Hottentots began to wander over the country at will. Farming became almost impossible; the farm-laborers became vagabonds and petty thefts took place constantly.

    Early in 1834, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, called “the Good,” was appointed Governor. A legislative council was then granted the colony, but its powers were not great.

    The Boers had never been greatly in favor (many opposed it strongly) of slavery, but they had yielded to the general custom and over three million pounds was invested in slaves throughout the colony in 1834. Sir Benjamin D’Urban proclaimed the emancipation of the slaves, who had been set free throughout the British Empire, in August, 1833. This freeing was to take effect in Cape Colony on the 1st of December, 1834.

    The news of the emancipation was felt to be a relief, but the terms on which it was conducted were productive of unending trouble. The slave-owners of Cape Colony were awarded less than a million and a quarter for their slaves — and the imperial government refused to send the money to South Africa; each claim was to be proved before commissioners in London, when the amount would be paid in stock. To make a journey of one hundred days to London was, of course, impossible to the farmers; they were at the mercy of agents who made their way down to the colony and purchased the claims, so that the colonist received sometimes a fifth, sometimes a sixth, or less, of the value of his slaves. The colonists had hoped that a vagrant act would have been passed by the Council when the slaves were freed, to keep them from being still further overrun by this large released black population, but this was not done. ]

    The Great Boer Trek.

    Please once again understand that the reason why many folks parrot the lie about the Great Trek having anything to do with slavery is all about FRAMING a debate & to discredit the just cause of Boer self determination.

  5. Now I should address the fact that while Eugene Terre’Blanche was often extreme: one must remember something very important. The vast majority of his followers are motivated by the cause of Boer self determination. This was PROVEN because the incorrectly named AWB was a very small organization during the 1970s that hardly anyone even heard of until they started talking about restoring the Boer Republics by 1985 & getting on board the long running Boer self determination struggle. Then the organization’s membership grew & when through the roof. Therefore it is FAR too one dimensional to dismiss the AWB followers as folks obsessed with race when in reality most of them are trying [ as misguided as the whole AWB organization is ] to reacquire some form of Boer independence & self determination. One must also remember that the Boers have had to struggle against various White regimes [ from the Dutch power to the British power & even had to struggles against the Afrikaner surrogate Colonial power ] in the past.

    The AWB & particularly Eugene Terre’Blanche only finally got on board the Boer freedom struggle [ prior Terre’Blanche was simply advocating for a return to Verwordian Apartheid ] due solely to the influence of a Boer Patriot named Robert van Tonder who LEFT the National Party – one wonders why he was ever there in the first place as the NP was OPPOSED to Boer self determination – in 1961 [ 1 ] [ the same year that the usurper Verwoerd turned South Africa into a nominal republic ] in order to advocate for the restoration of the Boer Republics.

    Robert van Tonder had his on illegal printing press & was harassed – often violently – by the National Party government. He paid a price for advocating for Boer self determination & the Afrikaner Broederbond & Afrikaner establishment tried everything to suppress him & prevent his message from getting out to much.


    1. <a href=" " Robert van Tonder dies. Quote: [ Van Tonder broke away from the National Party in 1961 because of what he described as its betrayal of the old Boer republics. ]

    Now the AWB is incorrectly named because most of its members are Boers not Afrikaners. The term Afrikaner was cooked up & appropriated by some Cape Dutch intellectuals during the 19th cent when they started a language rights movement at a time when the Boers were independent within their internationally recognized [ page 96. The Story of the Boers. C W van der Hoogt. Dutch diplomat who met President Paul Kruger. ] Boer Republics. There are still many Boers confused over the identity as most White Afrikaans speakers were conditioned to view themselves as Afrikaners due to the indoctrination they received at school / church etc when in fact the Boers are MARGINALIZED under the Afrikaner designation as they are OUTNUMBERED by the Cape Dutch segment.

    At any rate the AWB was likely created as an intelligence front to pull in & control threats to the territorial integrity of the macro State of South Africa as created with the South Africa act of 1909 in the British Parliament. One was thing was clear: it was & is heavily infiltrated by intelligence agents who subvert & reverse any decision the organization makes.

    The Boers tried to restore their Boer Republics during the Martiz Rebellion of 1914 & again during the 1940s but the Afrikaner establishment organized AGAINST the Boer Republicans & broke up the movement [ learn more at the video: Vewoerd was not a friend of the Boer Nation. & appeared to have co-opted a portion of its remnants. The AWB was trying to tap into the Boer independence movement but Robert van Tonder grew exasperated with it & the other political parties & started his own political party in 1986: the Boerestaat Party which was focused solely on measures aimed at restoring the Boer Republics in some form. Van Tonder noted publicly that race is not the core of the struggle but rather the identity of the group.

    Robert van Tonder absolutely hated the AWB flag as he rightly saw it as hurting the cause of Boer self determination & would tell people to take it down whenever it was displayed at places where he was scheduled to speak. Boer Republicans often thew out agent provocateurs who would show up with Nazi flags. The agent provocateurs where Broederbond agents aiming at discrediting the cause of Boer self determination.

    The whole issue of race totally obscures the fact that the Boers would be struggling for self determination even if they were purple because racial composition is ancillary to the cause of national group self determination.

  6. This article calls the Boers “colonists” but this has been a very tricky term to apply to the Boers as they are the most UNLIKELY “colonists” to have ever developed. Only a very loose definition of the term [ ie: folks who trekked / migrated into new lands ] could apply but the Boers live an existence that was FAR from a Colonial one. First the Boers developed on the Cape frontier in a effort at getting away from the autocratic rule of the VOC & adopted a lifestyle that historians noted was similar to that of the Khoisan & lived quite removed from civilization. Then there is the fact that they were fairly impoverished with no Capital for which to run a “colony” as they often only engaged in barter. Colonists have the protection of the State & or some Colonial power WHEREAS the Boers on the other hand did not have the protection of the State nor Colonial power & in fact the VOC was AGAINST starting a Colony & was OPPOSED to the Boers trekking tendencies of going further inland. Author Sidney Robbins notes on page 59 of the Devil’s Annexe that the Boers [ whom he erroneously calls Afrikaners due to prevalent propaganda of the 20th cent at the time ] cut all ties to Europe [ which is ANATHEMA to true Colonists ] & became a White African tribe. Author Oliver Ransford notes in The Great Trek in Chapter one that the Boers were part of the African landscape thus becoming an indigenous people & certainly living & acting like an indigenous people who soon had no memory of Europe & were very anti-colonial.

    Another important point to consider is that the Boers had no standing armies [ all they ever had was the democratic & voluntary Commando system right up to the second Anglo-Boer War. ] which once again is ANATHEMA to true Colonists who DEPEND on standing armies to enforce their governance over the regions their Colonial power claims.

    Furthermore the Boers RARELY if ever lived in cities [ another feature of Colonialism ] as they lived directly off the land in rural areas far from the reach of any actual Colonial power & often would negotiate & or enter into ALLIANCES with neighbouring tribes. Something else with was decidedly un-colonial in nature. The erroneous notion that the Boers were ever Colonial or Colonists stems from Western ignorance as most Westerners can not see past their general pale skin & often presume that they came from somewhere else when in reality the Boer people sprung up on & developed on African soil out of the diverse the VOC dumped at the Cape & ABANDONED their various ancestral languages & adopted a dialect of the emerging lingua frana developing at the Cape that would later be called Afrikaans & spoken by numerous other groups which developed at the Cape during the period. The Boers are far more a homegrown / indigenous people that a simple Colonist.

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