The flag of the AWB
Zone of influence
|Location||Ventersdorp, North West Province, South Africa|
|Region served||South Africa|
|Leader||Steyn van Ronge|
The Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement) (AWB) is a South African far right separatist political and former paramilitary organisation, since its creation dedicated to secessionist Afrikaner nationalism and the creation of an independent Boer-Afrikaner republic or "Volkstaat/Boerestaat" in part of South Africa. In its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, the organisation received much publicity [Note 1] both in South Africa and internationally as a white supremacist group.
The AWB was formed on 7 July 1973 in a garage in Heidelberg, Gauteng, in the then Transvaal Province of South Africa. Eugène Terre'Blanche, a former police officer, became disillusioned by then-Prime Minister B.J. Vorster's "liberal views," as well as what he viewed as communist influences in South African society. Terre'Blanche decided to form the AWB with six other like-minded persons, and was elected leader of the organisation, a position he held until his death in April 2010.
Their objective was to establish an independent Boerestaat ("Boer State") for Boer-Afrikaner people only, existing separately from apartheid South Africa, which was considered too left wing and liberal by Terre'Blanche. The AWB was formed in an attempt to regain the ground lost after the Second Boer War: they intended to re-establish the independent Boer Republics of the past – the South African Republic (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek) and the Republic of the Orange Free State (Oranje Vrystaat).
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During the 1970s and 1980s, the AWB grew from the original seven to several thousand white South Africans. They opposed the reform of apartheid laws during the 1980s, harassing liberal politicians and holding large (and often quite rowdy) political rallies. Terre'Blanche used his flamboyant oratorial skills and forceful personality to win converts. He railed against the lifting of many so-called "petty apartheid" laws such as the law banning interracial sex and marriage (the Race Relations Act), mixing of the races (Group Areas Act) as well as the allowance of limited political rights to Indians and Coloureds (mixed race individuals). During the State of Emergency (1984 to 1986) there were many reports of AWB violence and even murders against unarmed non-whites. The AWB was especially in opposition to the then-banned African National Congress. The ruling National Party considered the AWB to be little more than a fringe group, so while not officially endorsed, they were able to operate relatively unhindered. However in 1986, white police officers took the unprecedented step of using tear gas against Terre'Blanche and the AWB when they disrupted a National Party rally. The organisation was estimated to have had support amongst 5 to 7 percent of the white South African population in 1988. In the Nick Broomfield film His Big White Self, he claims that the organisation reached a peak of half a million supporters in its heyday.
In the mid-1980s, the AWB instituted a Voedingskema (feeding program), later called the Volkshulpskema (people's help scheme), to help the very poorest Afrikaner families. The scheme delivered a meal every day to 14,000 poor Afrikaner children in Pretoria. Certain farmers also donated vegetables on an almost weekly basis, and in the final three months of 1986 alone 300 tons of food was donated. In the winter, bedding was donated as well. Sympathetic mine owners and farmers arranged jobs for unemployed Afrikaners on the farms and mines. Afrikaans singer Bles Bridges held a concert on 3 March 1987 in Pretoria and gave the 10,000 Rand raised to the project.
During the end of apartheid
During the negotiations that led to South Africa's first multiracial elections, the AWB threatened all-out war. During the Battle of Ventersdorp in August 1991, the AWB confronted police in front of the town hall where President F W de Klerk was speaking, and "a number of people were killed or injured" in the conflict. Later in the negotiations, the AWB stormed the Kempton Park World Trade Centre where the negotiations were taking place, breaking through the glass front of the building with an armoured car. The police guarding the centre failed to prevent the invasion. The invaders then took over the main conference hall, threatening delegates and painting slogans on the walls, but left again after a short period.
In 1988, the AWB was beset by scandal when claims that Terre'Blanche had had an affair with journalist Jani Allan surfaced. In July 1989, Cornelius Lottering, a member of a breakaway AWB group Orde van die Dood (Order of Death), attempted to assassinate Allan by placing a bomb outside her Sandton apartment. Nick Broomfield's 1991 documentary The Leader, His Driver and the Driver's Wife claimed that Terre'Blanche had sex with Allan, a claim she denied. This led to Allan taking libel proceedings against the documentary broadcaster Channel 4 in 1992 in the London High Court. During the trial, several transcripts of their alleged unconventional sexual positions appeared in the South African and British press. Terre'Blanche also submitted a sworn statement to the London court denying that he had had an affair with Allan. Although the judge found that Channel 4's allegations had not defamed Allan, he did not rule on whether or not there had been an affair.
In 1994, before the advent of majority rule, the AWB gained international notoriety in its attempt to defend the dictatorial government of Lucas Mangope in the homeland of Bophuthatswana. The AWB, along with a contingent of about 90 Afrikaner Volksfront militiamen, entered the capital Mmabatho on 10 and 11 March. The black policemen and soldiers of the Bophuthatswana Defence Force who were out in force to support president Mangope disappeared from the streets in protest at the AWB's actions and later turned on the militiamen at the airport at Mafikeng. One AWB member was shot and killed when the convoy attempted to leave the airport and continue on to Mmabatho. When in Mmabatho, the AWB and the Afrikaner Volksfront found themselves under continuous siege from both the Bophuthatswana Defence Force and Mmabatho citizens. When attempting to retreat from Mmabatho on 11 March, three AWB members were summarily executed by a Defence Force member who had gone over to the ANC after they had been wounded in a firefight. Nearby photojournalists and television news crews recorded the incident, which proved to be a public relations disaster for the AWB, demoralising its white members. The AWB claimed that they were asked into the country and only entered trying to help the Bophuthatswana government, but the Tebbutt Commission found the "evidence is overwhelming that they entered the area uninvited and that they were not welcome there".
On 17 June 2001 Terre'Blanche was sentenced to six years in prison for assaulting a petrol station worker, John Ndzima, to such an extent as to cause permanent brain damage, and the attempted murder of a security guard and former employee, Paul Motshabi. Terre'Blanche was released in June 2004 after serving 3 years in Rooigrond Prison near Mafikeng. During his time in prison he became a born-again Christian and claimed he had moderated many of his more racist views and preached reconciliation as 'prescribed by God'.
In April 2007, AWB posters appeared at the 13th Klein Karoo National Arts Festival in Oudtshoorn. Several posters made reference to the Bok van Blerk song 'De la Rey', an Afrikaans hit record about the Boer General as well as to South Africa's former coat of arms. Organisers were quick to remove the posters.
In March 2008, the AWB announced it was re-activating for 'populist' reasons, citing the encouragement of the public. Reasons for the return include the electricity crisis, corruption across government departments and rampant crime. Plans include a demand for land that they claim is legally theirs in terms of the Sand River Convention of 1852 and other historical treaties, through the International Court of Justice in The Hague if necessary, and if that failed, taking up arms. In April 2008, Terre'Blanche was to be the speaker at several AWB rallies in Vryburg, Middelburg and Pretoria. Several areas in South Africa have been earmarked as part of a future Volkstaat according to three critical title deeds. The areas include; Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal, the old republics of Stellaland and Goshen in the far North-West and sections of the Free State.
Amidst a Facebook race row concerning North West University students, the South African press revealed that the AWB have been using the social networking site to recruit members. The Mail & Guardian newspaper revealed that the AWB group has over 5000 members, and appeals to 18- to 35-year-olds to join the organisation's youth wing. Steyn van Ronge was recently announced as the permanent leader of the organisation.
The AWB flag is composed of three black sevens (forming a triskelion) in a white circle upon a red background. According to AWB, the sevens, 'the number of JAHWEH', 'stand to oppose the number 666, the number of the anti-Christ'. Red is considered to represent Jesus' blood, while black stands for bravery and courage. The inner white circle symbolises the "eternal struggle", or according to other sources "eternal life". The flag bears a resemblance to the Swastika flag used by the Nazi Party and Nazi Germany.
The organisation is a popular antagonist amongst writers of alternate history literature. Several members of a fictionalised AWB are important characters in Harry Turtledove's American Civil War alternate history novel The Guns of the South. The AWB also features prominently in Larry Bond's novel of a Cold War-era civil war/international conflict in South Africa, Vortex.
- Similar groups
- Documentary films
- His Big White Self
- The Leader, His Driver and the Driver's Wife
- Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends episode 3.3
- "The AWB is a rump of beer-bellied whites sporting over-tight khaki uniforms and an ersatz swastika emblem made out of three 7s. Its members are the leftovers of the National Party revolution in the 1940s that demanded that the poor white Afrikaner dirt farmers have a part in the growing European immigrant white middle class. When the Afrikaners' National Party won power in 1948 it began to introduce apartheid, partly to allow the Boers entry into the middle class without challenge from upwardly mobile blacks. In that, de Klerk's National Party has largely succeeded. The Afrikaners' place in the economic future of South Africa is now assured even with a black majority government. The Afrikaners have moved from the farms into law, business, finance, economics, banking, industry, the universities – every facet of South African middle-class life from which they were nearly absent 40 years ago. What Terre Blanche and the AWB represent is those Afrikaners who were not able to make the leap from the isolated dirt farms even with the huge boost of apartheid." (13 Aug 1991) The Ottawa Citizen
- Battersby, John D. (22 February 1988). "Rightists Rally in Pretoria, Urging a White State". New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
- "Separation, even after apartheid; Many whites fear for life after Mandela" (21 June 2013) National Post, Ontario
- "Whites Panicking in South Africa" (April 8, 1994) Winnipeg Free Press
- "White Extremists Try to Disrupt de Klerk" (August 12, 1991) Pacific Stars And Stripes
- "S. Africa Arrests White Extremist" (December 13, 1982) Medicine Hat News
- "Extremists Steal Guns for S. Africa War" (May 30, 1990) Elyria Chronicle Telegram
- "Prosecuter Yells Slogans" (January 17, 1989) Winnipeg Free Press
- "South Africa Expels Senior U.S. Military Representative" (May 25, 1986) Farmington Daily Times
- "Death Threats Shrugged Off (July 30, 1987) Winnipeg Free Press
- South Africa Correspondent (9 October 1993). "South Africa; Afrikanerdom divided". The Economist.
- Van Der Hoogt, C. W (1900). The Story of the Boers, Chapter: A Century of Injustice. p. 96. Archived from the original on 7 March 2001.
- Kemp, Arthur. "Victory or Violence: The story of the AWB of South Africa". Archived from the original on 10 April 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
- "Amnesty decision". Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 1999. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
- "Goldstone Commission : Events at the World Trade Centre June 1993". Archived from the original on 14 July 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
- "TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION". South African government. 23 March 1998.
- Sweeney, John (19 December 1999). "Brief encounters". The Observer (London).
- "Century of Sundays". Carte Blanche. 3 May 2006.
- SPIN, September 1994, p. 96
- Wood, Elizabeth (2003). Forging Democracy From Below: Insurgent Transitions in South Africa and El Salvador. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-78323-2.
- "Tebbutt Commission". Archived from the original on 30 April 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
- Carroll, Rory (2004-06-10). "Terre'Blanche returns to a new world". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2006-01-04.
- "AWB 'De la Rey' posters surface at festival". IOL. 2 April 2007.
- Bevan, Stephen (1 June 2008). "AWB leader Terre'Blanche rallies Boers again". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
- "The return of Eugene Terre'Blanche". IOL. 2008-03-30.
- "'Ek is wit en trots daarop'". Mail & Guardian. 12 October 2008.
- Eugene Terre'Blanche murdered News24, 3 April 2010
- Steyn van Ronge appointed as the new leader of the AWB News Time. 6 April 2010
- "Symbols and Emblems". AWB. Archived from the original on 6 April 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
- "Hate Symbols: Neo-Nazi Three Sevens". Anti-Defamation League.
- Turtledove, Harry. The Guns of the South. Del Rey: New York City, 1993.
- Marinovich, Greg; Silva, Joao (2000). The Bang-bang Club: The Making of the New South Africa. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-00733-1. (details the Bophuthatswana incident)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Afrikaner Weerstands Beweging.|
- Official website
- Truth and Reconcilliation application by Ontlametse Menyatsoe who was at the centre of the Bophuthatswana incident
- South African Press Association (1997): AWB EXPRESSES REGRETS OVER BOP KILLINGS, RACISM
- The return of Eugene Terre'Blanche : Independent Online 30 March 2008
- Rising Right : Independent Online 10 May 2008
- 'All time high' for AWB : Independent Online 10 May 2008
- 'My beloved country' documentary film about AWB