Farmworker found guilty in S.African white extremist murder
5/22/2012 7:00:01 PM -
VENTERSDORP, South Africa (AFP) - A South African court convicted a black farmworker Tuesday of murdering white supremacist leader Eugene Terre'Blanche, but found the motive was financial rather than racial.
Judge John Horn rejected Chris Mahlangu's claims to have acted in self-defence and accepted the prosecution's argument that the killing had been triggered by a fight over wages.
Mahlangu's co-defendant Patrick Ndlovu, 18, who was a minor at the time of the killing, was found guilty of house-breaking but not guilty on charges of murder and robbery.
"I am not convinced that accused number two (Ndlovu) took any real or active part in the assault on the deceased," Horn said in the High Court sitting in the northwest town of Ventersdorp.
Horn last month ruled most evidence against the teenager inadmissible because police failed to follow South Africa's child protection laws in handling the case.
The 69-year-old co-founder of the farright Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) was bludgeoned to death at his farmhouse outside Ventersdorp, a small farming town, on April 3, 2010.
The pair turned themselves in after the incident.
"He was revered by some, but despised by others," said the judge, rejecting assertions that Terre'Blanche had been killed over his political views.
"According to what was put to some of the witnesses on behalf of the accused, the dispute with the deceased was about money, not about his political beliefs or aversion for black people," Horn said.
The conviction of Mahlangu, 29, was no surprise given the array of evidence against him.
The court found no proof that Terre'Blanche had sodomised Mahlangu, a claim he raised when the trial started.
"Sodomy is such a personal intrusion, I can't believe (Mahlangu) would not have raised it immediately," Horn said.
Furthermore, there was no indication that police had removed semen from Terre'Blanche's genitals after the crime.
"There was no earthly reason for them to lay their careers on the line to act in such manner. They had nothing to gain. It simply does not make sense," he said.
Outside the court a small group of AWB members displaying the movement's red flags with a swastika-like emblem were gathered.
Posters with Terre'Blanche's face hung on trees, with slogans like "We Want Justice" and "Stop Farm Murders".
Supporters of the accused pair sang the song "Shoot the white farmer" -- an apartheid-era rallying cry that was banned last year -- outside the court, with some carrying placards reading "Down with the AWB".
Heavily armed police guarded the court, with a large group of local and foreign journalists moving in the area cordoned off outside the building.
"We are pleased with the judgement, it was extremely comprehensive," said Norman Arendse, Ndlovu's lawyer.
"It has been a rollercoster ride. There was a time when we thought he was going to be convicted" of murder by association, he said.
A visibly angry Terre'Blanche family spokesman said they were not happy that the teenager escaped the murder conviction.
"From the family, we are totally unhappy that the boy has not been found guilty," said Andre Niebaner.
The killing confronted South Africa with memories of its dark apartheid past, but during the long proceedings the trial has largely faded from public debate.
The trial instead cast yet another light on South Africa's staggering incidence of violent crime, which farmers say is especially severe on their land. Commercial farms are still mostly in white hands 18 years after the end of apartheid.
Sentencing is expected on June 18.