The Afrikaner-Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) was formed by a group of seven young men in 1973 in a garage in Heidelberg, Transvaal. One of them was Eugene Ney Terre'Blanche, a farmer from the Ventersdorp district and a former policeman and bodyguard of John Vorster's.
The major reason for the formation of the organisation, it was alleged, was that the NP's policy of "appeasement and forfeiture" could no longer be tolerated. It was also felt that Afrikaners in South Africa did not share the same "destiny" as other whites in Africa. The organisation was launched in direct opposition to the NP government and everything that was foreign and a threat to the Afrikaner.
After a period of relative obscurity, the Afrikaner-Weerstandsbeweging took off in the eighties. The paramilitary organisation shows strong similarities to Hitler's Nazi movement. AWB members wear khaki uniforms at official gatherings. Their emblems and symbols are very like those of the Nazis. The adapted swastika emblem, called the "three sevens" by the AWB, appears on its flag and epaulettes. The "three sevens" and eagle are given biblical interpretations. The eagle is symbolic of "God's protective care", while the "three sevens" is the biblical number of "final victory in and by Jesus Christ". The symbolism of the col-ours red, white and black is explained as follows: "Red is the symbol of the blood which Christ shed on the cross for our sins . . . Also the blood of the Christian and Afrikaner Boer. White, the symbol of the purity of their ideal, and black the heraldic symbol for bravery." The Vierkleur, the flag of the old Transvaal republic, is also honoured by the AWB. It is still a symbol of an illustrious war and the yolk's "unrelenting quest for its own free Boerevolkstaat".
The main aim of the AWB is to create an independent white "volkstaat" (nation state) which will continue to exist just like other "volke" (nations) in southern Africa. This notion is a departure from the original aim of pursuing the Verwoerdian ideal of partition. The Boer republics which existed before 1902 are seen as the core of the white volkstaat. Citizenship is given a very narrow definition. All prospective citizens of the volkstaat must be Afrikaners. Other whites and immigrants may attain citizenship only by "identifying with" and being "initiated into the Afrikaner Boerevolk". In contrast to other fundamentalist organisations the AWB allows non-Afrikaners asmembers. Other policy aspects such as security, economics, labour, agriculture and education are formulated to the advantage of the Boerevolk. Strong technocratic elements, reminiscent of Mussolini's corporatist state, are evident in the policy guidelines of the AWB. According to the AWB no foreign investors will be al-lowed in a future volkstaat.
The AWB also launched a political party – the Volkstaat-Party – to fulfil the ideal of a volkstaat. It is interesting to note that the proposed volkstaat will be a one-party state. The policy documents of the organisation express it as follows: "(that) . . .the division of the yolk into political par-ties will be excluded." Until now the party has not been activated, but its activation has been threatened on numerous occasions to create political unity within ultra right-wing circles.
The AWB is organised along the same lines as a political party. At branch level there are citizen councils. All the chief executives of the citizen councils of a specific region form a regional council, and the leaders at this level form the national executive. In most large towns there are paramilitary groups known as Brandwagte functioning as local vigilance committees. The notion under-lying these structures is to establish an "army" of trained armed men. An elite youth corps of this army is known as the Stormvalke. The structure and training of the Stormvalke is based on the Stormjaers of the Ossewa-Brandwag, an exclusive pro-Nazi Afrikaner movement established in South Africa during World War Two. A special task force entrusted with the safety of Terre'Blanche and other leaders and the property of the AWB is called Aquilla.
The AWB remained a relatively obscure organisation until 1979 when it accepted responsibility for the tar-ring and feathering of Pretoria academic, Floors van Jaarsveld, after he had questioned the religious sanctity of 16 December, the Day of the
Vow. In the same year Terre'Blanche caused a further stir when he accused "international Zionism" and "British-Jewish capitalism" of being responsible for the breakdown of nationalism among Afrikaners. In 1982 the organisation was given further prominence when many of its leaders were accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Two were found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in jail, while Terre'Blanche himself was fined and given two suspended sentences. The organisation was warned by the Minister of Law and Order about its breaking of numerous laws in public.
In 1984 the prominent role the AWB had played together with the CP and HNP in the formation of the Afrikaner-Volkswag was widely publicized. The overlap in membership between the AWB and CP – most AWB members are also CP sup-porters – gave Terre'Blanche the opportunity of capturing a wide audience. Since the mid-eighties he has travelled countrywide, addressing mass meetings. With his charismatic, oratorical style he soon managed towin support for the AWB. But it was only during the 1987 general election that the AWB became truly visible.
Initially the AWB adopted an aggressive attitude. Numerous National Party meetings were disrupted, and AWB youth commandos travelled from one political meeting to the next to heckle speakers. The government-supporting newspapers and the SABC constantly made mention of the "thuggery element" in the AWB. This forced the organisation to project a more moderate image, and although it still remains militant, it now attempts to present a more sophisticated image. Although the overtly racist rhetoric was toned down somewhat, the underlying racism was still apparent. The organisation established its permanent headquarters in Pretoria, and spread its message via glossy literature and video tapes. The AWB also gained ground among the lower socio-economic groups when it launched a welfare programme consisting mainly of distributing food parcels to the needy.
During 1988/1989 the AWB received much negative media publicity. Terre'Blanche was accused of malicious damage to property and crimen injuria after the Paardekraal incident in which he allegedly broke open the gates to the monument. Shortly afterwards the newspapers splashed the news of an alleged relationship between the married Terre'Blanche and Jani Allan, a columnist on the Sunday Times. These events led to a rift in the chief executive of the AWB. Members resigned and deputy leader Jan Groenewald and three other members of the chief executive were suspended from the organisation after insisting on Terre'Blanche's resignation. Johanna (Baba) Jooste, leader of the AWB's female wing, also resigned. Later she established an opposition organisation, the Boere-Vryheidsbeweging (BVB), along with three of the other "rebels".
The bitter enmity created between members after the suspension of key members led to a survival struggle for the organisation. Only the charismatic style of Terre'Blanche himself held together a few core members. Several splinter groups with the same basic aims saw the light during 1989.
The unbanning of the ANC, PAC, SACP and other organisations on 2 February 1990 – in far right-wing circles the day was dubbed "Red Fri-day" – injected new fire and force into the militant actions of far right-wingers. The AWB also regained some of its support. New attempts were made to accommodate the militant members. Apart from the Brandwagte and Stormvalke Boer commandos or Wenkommando's (winning commandos) also operate under the leadership of the former police colonel, Servaas de Wet. New alliances were formed. Against the background of this mobilization of manpower, Terre'Blanche threatened the government with "war" if an ANC government came into power. He did add, however, that his Wenkommando's would take action only if there was a total collapse of law and order.
Late in June 1991 Terre'Blanche underlined the AWB's militant tendency when he announced that an elite sharpshooting unit, the so-called Ystergarde, had been formed. The existence of the Stormvalke, Wenkommando's and the Ystergarde emphasizes the paramilitary character of the AWB.
A new development was the creation of neighbourhood watches. In many instances AWB members patrolled neighbourhoods under the pretext of crime prevention. In fact, they were enforcing a curfew to ensure that neighbourhoods were kept "white". This also gave smaller militant groups the opportunity to come to the fore. The most prominent of these "vigilance committees" are: the Blanke Veiligheidsbeweging in Welkom; the Wit Gemeenskapswag on the West Rand; Brandwag in Brits; Aksie Selfbeskerming in Klerksdorp; and the Flamingos in Virginia. There are also many lapsed far-right groups of former citizen councils that consider the AWB to be moderate.
Piet "Skiet" Rudolph, a former member of organisations like the HNP, AWB and Boerestaat-Party, and leader of the Orde Boerevolk, admitted that he perpetrated acts of sabotage. Rudolph, who allegedly broke into a Defence Force weapons store, managed to evade a countrywide police hunt for many months. Following a discussion between Rudolph, who had been accused of terrorism, and members of the Orde Boerevolk's central committee in January 1991, the organisation decided to renounce violence, and become involved in the negotiation process. (The meeting took place in prison with police approval.) At the meeting Kallie Bredenhann and Coenraad Vermaak, both of Heidelberg in the Transvaal, were respectively appointed leader and deputy leader. In January 1991 Rudolph sent the State President a letter in which he informed De Klerk of his stand on violence and negotiation. Rudolph received his freedom in March 1991, together with political prisoners from banned organisations such as the ANC and joined the AWB as publicity secretary.
The leader of the Wêreld-Apartheidsbeweging (WAB), Koos Vermeulen, is allegedly the link between international far-right movements like the Basque Separatists of Spain, the French neo-Nazi movement L'Assaut, the British Dare, Companions of Justice and New Force Party and South African white extremists. The WAB and the Afrikaner-Nasionaal-Sosialiste act as the coordinators for about 30 right-wing groups in South Africa. Membership of these groups varies between three and 50.
The extremists on the right are very fragmented. More than 40 right-wing organisations have been identified. This fragmentation makes it difficult for the police to determine their plans and movements, but it also means that the organisations cannot launch a joint operation. Their numbers are much fewer than the rhetoric of the leaders wouldhave the public believe, but the fact that many of them have had military training does make them a dangerous element. The more impossible a constitutional overthrow of the present government seems to become, the more these groups will focus on extra-parliamentary actions. Opposition to the present government is thus a potentially unifying factor. If a sophisticated elite should come to the fore, this fragmented group of far right-wingers could become a real revolutionary threat.
Many of these militant and fundamentalist ultra right-wing organisations overlap. Some have a member-ship of only two or three people. Many threaten to oust the government by force. In reality, a coup is not within their reach. One such organisation that came to light in March 1991 was the Boer Republican Army. This organisation not only threatened to "exterminate" left-orientated political leaders but also threatened to damage the offices and property of organisations such as the NP, AB, SACP, and PAC and multi-national corporations such as Coca Cola, Shell and BP with explosives.
There is no shortage of fanatics, but they have few supporters. Their actions and inflammatory statements are given wide publicity in the media. Some of the extremist organisations that have been identified include:
q Wit Beveydingsleër.
q Orde van die Dood.
q Wit Kommando.
q Afrikaner- Nasionaal- Sosialistiese Beweging.
q Boere-Weerstandsbeweging. During July 1991 some members were arrested after a plot to assassinate a right-wing leader was uncovered.
q Afrikaner- Fascistiese Koalisie.
q Blanke Bevrydingsbeweging.
q Wit Wolwe.
q Transvaalse Separatiste, also known as the Boere-Separatiste.
q Wit Front.
q Magsaksie Afrikaner-Nasionalisme.
q Kaapse Rebelle.