Africa, South Africa, Politics

God, Volk, Vaderland: What ever Happened to the AWB?

The Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) used to be a feared force in South Africa, espousing a bizarre rhetoric of white supremacy in a desperate attempt to preserve the apartheid state during the early 1990s. Having failed in their attempt to capitalise on the breakdown of minority rule, they faded into the political shadows, yet somehow the AWB is still intact. Therefore CrowdH asks; who are the AWB, and what ever happened to this paramilitary group?

The AWB was founded in 1973 by Eugène Terre’Blanche, who was repulsed by the apparent “liberal views’ of prime minister John Vorster. This was coupled with the fear of communism in South Africa, in which numerous African countries with black majorities had acquired left-wing or left leaning governments hostile to white minority rule.

The answer to these perceived threats was to establish a group which would have an eventual goal of forming a Boerestaat (Afrikaans for “Boer State”), consisting of the historical South African Republic and the Republic of the Orange Free State; two sovereign Afrikaner nation’s lost during Boer Wars of the late 19th and early 20th century. Having established its aims, the AWB developed an ideology of white supremacy and overt self-determination, adopting a flag and emblem similar to that of Nazi Germany.

AWB Flags
Top: AWB flag and emblem, Bottom: Nazi Germany’s Hakenkreuz flag and emblem.

The black symbol in the middle of the AWB flag is supposed to represent the “three sevens”; an alleged triumph of God’s 777 over the Devils 666. Critics and observers, however, note how the two flags resemble each other closely; a notion that the AWB strongly denies.

Within the decade of the AWB’s founding, the group had attracted a membership of several thousand, largely due to the fiery oratory of Eugène Terre’Blanche. He would address rowdy crowds about how the apparently “liberal” apartheid government was granting black Bantustans (‘homelands’) a vague degree of autonomy and the development of a tricameral parliament and giving Coloureds and Asians a limited political say in their affairs. In the eyes of the AWB, their nation was being sold to the dogs, and the vulnerability of right-leaning Boers was apparent.

“You don’t have the right to hand this land to ANC Communists! “AWB leader Eugène Terre’Blanche commands a crowd during a 1991 resistance rally.

Curiously, it was apparent that the apartheid regime had been going against the tide of history for the past forty years, yet as you can see from the oratory of Terre’Blanche, the AWB was going against both the ruling National Party and the progressive nature of democracy. As the drift towards a rainbow nation gained fervour, the AWB’s actions became more extreme and daring. In 1993, three thousand members of the organisation stormed through the World Trade Centre in Kemptown Park, Johannesburg in an attempt to end multi-party efforts to transition towards a multiracial democracy.

The World Trade Centre “invasion” involved an armoured vehicle smashing through the entrance of the building. The police and security guards were overwhelmed, and delegates barricaded themselves in their offices.

Whilst dramatic in nature, the “invasion” did little to change the view of the National Party in its negotiations with the ANC, and an election date was set on April 2th, 1994. As the course of South African history was against both the National Party and even more so the AWB, far-right influence in the nation’s politics eroded rapidly. The group faded away rapidly as the century was drawing to a close, and an assault scandal in 2001 seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. In 2001, Terre’Blanche assaulted John Ndzima, a black petrol station attendant, causing him permanent brain damage. The assault resulted in a three-year prison sentence for the AWB leader, leaving the organisation without their head, rendering it effectively deactivated.

In 2008, the chequered history of the AWB had however taken another turn, as the group announced it was to reform with an emphasis of reviving their territorial claims to lands lost during the Boer Wars; using arms and force as a last resort rather than a first.

This alleged resurgence did not become too notable until April 2010, when two dramatic events happened in relation to the AWB within the same week. Firstly, Eugene Terre’Blanche was murdered on his farm, Villana, by two disgruntled employees over a pay dispute, beaten to death with pipes and machetes.

His death had left the propagator of a Boerestaat without a leader, and without any guidance for his followers. Secondly, an internet meme called “(Don’t) touch me on my studio” surfaced after an embarrassing engagement on national television involving André Visagie, the former Secretary General of the AWB, and Lebohang Pheko, a political analyst.

Everyone was touching everyone else in that studio…

Thus, after a brief revival, the AWB’s reputation was again in shatters. Its new leader Steyn von Ronge was unable to capture the same emotions as his butchered predecessor did, and the organisation has been melted down into the vestiges of history. Other groups such as the Suidlanders and the Kommandokorps have sprung up representing a survivalist doctrine for a potential race war; signaling a less overt, secretive, alright Freemason-like approach; yet the real question is how young ‘born free’ post-1994 Afrikaners should react to the fear of their parents and grandparents. Arguably, it will not be in the same way.

About Stuart Chapman

Stuart is a a current affairs connoisseur, picking and scratching at some of the more obscure, ambiguous topics that currently plague the political spectrum. As well as having considerable experience in the analytical art of nitpicking at pariah states and unworkable governments, Stuart manages a UK-based politics publication, and has recently launched his own copywriting start-up firm. As an active member of the Royal Society of Asian Affairs, he takes particular attention to the socio-economic conditions within the region, and enjoys writing opinion pieces within the Asiatic sphere. Outside the world of politics, Stuart enjoys drinking copious amounts of strong black coffee, and jogging at daybreak.

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