Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging leader Eugene Terre'Blanche on Monday called for former state president FW de Klerk to answer questions at a Truth and Reconciliation hearing in Klerksdorp, at which Terre'Blanche is seeking amnesty for the so-called Battle of Ventersdorp.

The battle followed a meeting in the town in August 1991, addressed by De Klerk. Originally scheduled to be a public meeting, it was later announced that it would be a private National Party meeting which only party supporters would be allowed to attend.

Terre'Blanche on Monday told the TRC he felt he had to be at the meeting to ask De Klerk some very important questions about a squatter invasion at Ventersdorp, and about negotiations then taking place between the NP government and black political leaders.

De Klerk had abused his powers by using the machinery of the state to defend himself at a private political meeting in Ventersdorp, Terre'Blanche said.

De Klerk had called in large contingents of defence force members and policemen to secure his own safety.

Terre'Blanche was later found guilty of public violence for his part in the battle.

But he told the committee it was unfair he should be branded a criminal when the violence had been instigated by De Klerk and his party.

"There is no evidence that the AWB wanted to break up the meeting. The AWB standpoint was that we had to speak there to ask the president certain questions and to stop him from getting a vote of support at the meeting."

We did not get that opportunity, he added.

"At a time of reconciliation I feel I should no longer be branded as a criminal just because I wanted to exercise my democratic rights as a member of the electorate to be at the meeting," he said.

Rather than instigating violence, he had actually tried to stop the battle, Terre'Blanche said. He had gone out into the middle of the street between two teargas bombs to pull an old man to safety behind a car and had called on the police to stop firing, he said.

Terre'Blanche did not have any legal representation at the hearing. He was aware he could get legal representation, but he wanted to speak for himself and save the state the expense of paying for his lawyer - "because my case is clean and I am honest in this matter".

Terre'Blanche is also applying for amnesty for the 1979 tarring and feathering of University of Pretoria academic Fleuris van Jaarsveld, and for a 1995 attack on a black man that left the victim brain damaged.

Terre'Blanche admitted he had given instructions to about 40 men to attack Van Jaarsveld at the University of South Africa, after Van Jaarsveld had delivered a paper calling for the abolition of the Day of the Covenant on December 16.

He said Van Jaarsveld's speech was designed to pave the way for far-reaching changes to take place in South Africa.

The late professor's son told the TRC the family was not opposing the amnesty application but wished it to be known that the attack had a devastating effect on his father's life.

Certain Afrikaans book publishers would no longer publish his books and his popular school history textbooks were removed from the market. For more than 10 years he was ignored by the SABC, whereas he had previously participated regularly in radio programmes. His father had gone into isolation as invitations to act as guest speaker at various functions had dried up.

He was even interviewed by the security police about a course in the history of communism, showing that he was regarded as suspect by the former government, Van Jaarsveld said.

He suggested that Terre'Blanche's attack on his father was an attempt at publicity by the then new AWB movement and that Terre'Blanche's amnesty application was nothing more than an attempt to save his own skin after he received a six-year jail sentence for a violent attack on a black man.

"The pain which he has inflicted will stick to him as the tar stuck to Professor Van Jaarsveld. There is no place for Terre'Blanche in the new South Africa and the community must be protected from people such as him," Van Jaarsveld said.

Amnesty commission chairman Judge Selwyn Miller said he would rule on Tuesday on the application to have De Klerk called before the commission.

Also speaking about the Battle of Ventersdorp, former AWB secretary-general Piet Rudolph said De Klerk had deployed his forces in Ventersdorp in an unbridled manner with the intention of destroying the AWB.

It was the security forces that shot people in the streets and were guilty of gross abuses of human rights at Ventersdorp, and not the AWB, he said.

South African Press Association, 1999
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