, VENTERSDORP, Aug 22 – A black farmworker convicted of killing South African white supremacist leader Eugene Terre’Blanche was on Wednesday sentenced to life imprisonment.
“I find no valid reason to deviate from the prescribed sentence,” Judge John Horn said, upholding the prosecution request for life in prison.
Chris Mahlangu “failed to express genuine remorse” for bludgeoning Terre’Blanche to death in his farmhouse outside the small town of Ventersdorp on April 3, 2010, Horn said.
He displayed a “flagrant disregard for the deceased’s right to life”, the judge added.
“You went so far as to accuse the deceased of sodomy, and undoubtedly caused the families hurt,” he said.
Mahlangu had claimed the right-wing leader raped him and infected him with HIV, but the court found no evidence to support the allegation.
Outside the courtroom, police kept watch as supporters of both sides gathered.
Terre’Blanche’s far-right Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) and its marching band sang Afrikaans songs, while backers of the accused sang “Shoot the Boer (farmer)” – an apartheid-era rallying cry that was banned last year.
In arguments for a milder sentence, a psychologist told the court Mahlangu had low intellect, was orphaned as a boy and grew up selling sweets on the street.
Horn conceded that Mahlangu was paid very little for his work on Terre’Blanche’s farm, but said this did not justify killing his employer.
Mahlangu’s claims to have acted in self-defence were rejected by the judge, who accepted the prosecution’s argument that the killing had been triggered by a fight over wages.
Mahlangu’s co-defendant Patrick Ndlovu, 18, who was a minor at the time of the killing, was found guilty of house-breaking but not guilty on charges of murder and robbery. He was handed a two-year suspended sentence.
The youth only turned 18 a few months ago and his identity was kept confidential until then.
Ndlovu has a previous housebreaking conviction and already spent two years in a nearby juvenile facility.
Most evidence in the murder trial against the teenager was found to be inadmissible because police failed to follow South Africa’s child protection law in handling the case.
Horn noted that the youth had apologised to Terre’Blanche’s widow for her husband’s death.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world outside war zones, with around 16,000 people – mostly black – killed last year.
Terre’Blanche, 69 when he was killed, co-founded the AWB, which violently opposed South Africa’s all-race democracy and campaigned for a self-governing white state.
Their campaign included bomb attacks ahead of the 1994 elections that ended the white-minority apartheid state.
The group is mostly based in rural communities in the north of the country and today enjoys little support among the broader white population.
The killing sparked fear of violent racial conflicts just months before South Africa hosted the 2010 Football World Cup, and was covered widely in international media.
It confronted South Africa with memories of its dark apartheid past, but during the long proceedings the trial has largely faded from public debate.