S.African court to deliver Terre'Blanche murder verdict

By Sibongile Khumalo
By Sibongile Khumalo

5/22/2012 5:10:00 AM -

VENTERSDORP, South Africa (AFP) - A South African court is to deliver its verdict Tuesday in the murder trial of two black farmworkers accused of killing white supremacist leader Eugene Terre'Blanche in 2010.

Terre'Blanche's former employees Chris Mahlangu, 29, and an 18-year-old youth are charged with murder, attempted robbery and house breaking and aggravated robbery.

The two have pleaded not guilty to all the charges and they opted not to testify in a trial punctuated by shocking claims of sexual and physical abuse.

Mahlangu faces life imprisonment if convicted of murder. The younger suspect was 15 at the time of the killing and was tried as a minor.

Last month Judge John Horn ruled most evidence against the teenager inadmissible because police failed to follow South Africa's child protection law in handling the case.

"We believe that we have presented enough evidence to sustain a conviction for the first accused," Mthunzi Mhaga, spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority told AFP.

"With regards to the second accused, it is hard to say," he added.

The trial has been held behind closed doors to protect the boy's identity. Media have been allowed to follow the proceedings via closed-circuit television, with cameras set up to prevent the boy from being filmed.

Mahlangu claimed that Terre'Blanche had raped him, while the teenager said police had failed to act on a case of physical abuse filed against the founder of the once notorious separatist group.

The co-founder of the far-right Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) was bludgeoned to death at his farmhouse outside the small northwestern town of Ventersdorp on April 3, 2010.

The pair turned themselves in after the murder, and the state have argued that the killing was triggered by a fight over wages.

Terre'Blanche was found on his bed with his pants pulled down to reveal his genitals. Initial testimony revealed that there was semen on his body, but the substance was never analysed.

The pathologist who collected his body testified that the semen-like fluid seen in photos of his corpse may have been wiped off when he was put in a body bag.

Mahlangu's lawyer told the court that he killed Terre'Blanche in self-defence after the farmer attacked him with a machete.

During the trial, small groups of white AWB members held demonstrations outside the courthouse and displayed placards calling for justice and voicing anger at the killing of farmers.

Black people in apparent support of the accused also gathered outside court during initial hearings, chanting slogans.

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.

Terre'Blanche's supporters, who wear khaki uniforms and the organisation's swastika-like symbol, violently opposed South Africa's all-race democracy and campaigned for a self-governing white state.

Their campaign included bomb attacks ahead of the 1994 polls that ended white-minority rule.

He was granted amnesty by South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission for several acts, including a 1979 tarring and feathering.

But the AWB leader was jailed in 2001 for the attempted murder of the security guard and for an assault on a petrol station attendant. He was released in 2004 and then faded into obscurity, until his gruesome death.

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