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Race institute downplays murder's impact on WCup

Race institute downplays murder's impact on WCup

With World Cup security plans under intense scrutiny following the killing of right-wing leader Eugene Terreblanche, the South African race relations institute downplayed the murder's impact on the safety of football's marquee event.
Lawrence Schlemmer, vice president of the South African Institute of Race Relations, told The Associated Press Monday that the tournament can help ease tensions in the country.
"There is no reason why these things, as tragic as they are, should affect the safety of fans or players at the World Cup," Schlemmer said. "The World Cup and sport, as it is supposed to, channels passions and reconciles conflict."
Schlemmer's comments, in a phone interview with the AP, came a day after South Africa's police minister Nathi Mthetwa said he was worried about the image of the host country following the brutal killing of Terreblanche Saturday on his farm near Ventersdorp, about 110 kilometers (68 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.
"We are always concerned about the perception of South Africa," Mthetwa said Sunday in Ventersdorp, close to the scene of the 69-year-old Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) leader's grisly murder.
"It's the violent nature of crime in South Africa that makes us be concerned and be worried."
But Mthetwa said the government has taken a tough stance against crime and the killing of Terreblanche, who was bludgeoned to death, will not affect the World Cup.
"I can say that with the plans we have put in place, with our tough stance in the fight against crime, we are starting to see the results," Mthetwa said.
"There will be no person who commits crime in South Africa and kill people or a person, and get away scot-free without the full might of the law."
Schlemmer said international media headlines that referred to a race war in South Africa were "superficial".
"Ever since the late 1950s there have been predictions of race war in South Africa," Schlemmer said. "The fact is that race war has never happened.
"There is no reason why these things should wash over to the safety of tourists," he said.
Terreblanche was killed in his bed in what police described as a wage dispute with two of his black workers. A 15-year-old male and a 28-year-old male have been arrested by police and will appear in court Tuesday.
The mother of the 15-year-old murder suspect told AP Television News Monday that her son struck Terreblanche with an iron rod after the farmer refused to pay him.
The incident has increased racial tensions in the country and added to safety fears less than 10 weeks ahead of the World Cup.
The AWB has said the singing of an apartheid-era resistance song by ANC Youth League President Julius Malema, which includes the lyrics "shoot the boer", led to the murder. "Boer" means white farmer in Afrikaans, the language of the descendants of Dutch settlers in South Africa.
AWB general-secretary Andre Visagie said the killing of Terreblanche was a "declaration of war" by blacks against whites in South Africa.
Visagie said his group would tell teams to reconsider their participation in the World Cup.
"We're going to warn those nations, 'You are sending your soccer teams to a land of murder,'" Visagie said. "Don't do that if you don't have sufficient protection for them."
Visagie also said his group would avenge Terreblanche's death, but gave no details.
Team and fan safety for the June 11-July 11 event was already subject to close examination because of the country's high rate of violent crime.
The World Cup organizing committee said Monday that they would not comment on Terreblanche's murder. Local organizing committee spokesman Rich Mkhondo referred the AP to government statements.
Police and the South African government have said the murder was not a political crime, and would have no impact on the World Cup.
President Jacob Zuma called for calm following the "terrible deed" and asked South Africans "not to allow agent provocateurs to take advantage of this situation by inciting or fueling racial hatred."
The government is hoping to ward off any rise in racial tensions just over two months before a global spotlight falls on South Africa, the first World Cup host on the continent.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu told the AP that it was wrong for the AWB to cast doubt on security preparations for the World Cup. Mthembu said the World Cup was for all South Africans.
"This is a World Cup for all of us, not only black people of this country. We have to give all the support we can for the World Cup to happen here in South Africa."
"And we think our compatriots in the AWB should do the same as other patriotic South Africans."
Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble said in Johannesburg last week he was satisfied with South Africa's security plans for the World Cup. About 41,000 police officers will be deployed for the monthlong tournament.
Terreblanche emerged in the 1970s as a far-right challenger to South Africa's apartheid government, and had threatened to take the country by force if white rule ended. He was known to arrive at meetings on horseback flanked by masked bodyguards dressed in khaki or black.
Terreblanche's killing comes amid growing disenchantment among blacks for whom the right to vote has not translated into jobs, better housing or education.
South Africa hopes the commercial benefits of hosting one of the world's biggest sporting events will help address these problems for the poor black majority.
The AWB said Terreblanche's funeral will take place Friday in Ventersdorp. It is planning a rally at Terreblanche's farm later on Monday.
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Associated Press writers Michelle Faul and Anita Powell in Johannesburg and Thomas Phakane in Ventersdorp contributed to this report.