S. Africa: Killing of Right-Wing Leader was 'Self-Defense,' say Accused Farm Workers

By Joshua Howat Berger (AFP)

VENTERSDORP, South Africa — A South African farmworker accused of killing white supremacist leader Eugene Terre'Blanche told a court Monday he had acted in self-defence and would not flee if freed on bail.

Two workers, 28-year-old Chris Mahlangu and a 15-year-old minor, are accused of murdering Terre'Blanche, the founder of the white separatist Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), on April 3 at his farm house outside the northwest town of Ventersdorp.

The killing, which allegedly followed a wage dispute, has put a spotlight on racial tensions in South Africa in the weeks before the World Cup, which the country hosts from June 11 to July 11.

In an affidavit read in court Monday, Mahlangu said he had acted in self-defence and would not pose a flight risk if released on bail. The court adjourned the bail hearing until May 19.

The 15-year-old accused is not applying for bail, his lawyer said.

"I did what I did in self-defence and will plead not guilty to all the charges against me," said Mahlangu's affidavit, which was read by his lawyer.

"I have no previous convictions and no pending cases against me," said the statement.

"Had I wanted to escape or avoid the law taking its course, I would have escaped."

But the lead investigator on the case, Tsietsi Mano, told the court Mahlangu should remain in custody because of the violence of the crime and the possibility that he would flee to Zimbabwe.

"Even if bail was set with conditions, I am of the opinion the accused would never stay in this country," Mano said, adding that the brutality of the murder was "a bitter pill to swallow".

He told the court Terre'Blanche had been bludgeoned with a metal pipe and a panga, a machete-like knife, to the point that he was "totally unrecognisable".

"They struck him several times in his face and arms with an iron rod and a panga," said prosecutor George Baloi.

"They loosened his pants and exposed his private parts."

Mano said the younger suspect told him Mahlangu had planned to dismember Terre'Blanche before abandoning the idea.

Prosecutors allege Terre'Blanche and the two workers had a dispute over wages and that the accused then left his farm and consumed 30 cider beers that Terre'Blanche had bought them before returning to kill him.

Puna Moroko, Mahlangu's lawyer, said he will dispute the prosecution's version of events when he cross-examines Mano at the resumed bail hearing.

The 15-year-old appeared in court briefly Monday morning and had his case postponed until June 10, when prosecutors will indict both of the accused, said Zola Majavu, the lawyer for the minor.

Majavu said a trial would then be held in high court, provisionally scheduled for September 13 to 17.

Majavu said his client also plans to plead not guilty.

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