JOHANNESBURG (Aug. 25)
President P.W. Botha promised South Africa’s 110,000-member Jewish community that his government would protect them against any neo-Nazi attacks. This statement Tuesday came after an upsurge of neo-Nazi activity prompted by the death of Rudolf Hess last week.
White extremists, who view Botha as too liberal towards Blacks and are overtly anti-Semitic, enraged South African Jews by eulogizing Hess. A memorial service, complete with Nazi salutes, was held by a neo-Nazi group last week at Pretoria’s cenotaph.
Other neo-Nazi activity included the laying of a wreath commemorating Hess in the Indian Ocean city of Durban, and in north Johannesburg, a businessman raised a huge swastika at his plush home and distributed T-shirts displaying pictures of Hitler to his family.
The extreme right-wing Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), which has attracted mounting support this year, warned Jewish critics. Its leader, Eugene Terreblanche, said if Jews complained about AWB tributes to Hess they “would make life very difficult for themselves.”
In reaction to these events, Botha made a special statement to Parliament saying: “As long as this government is in power, there will be no hesitation to act against any elements which threaten or defame any of our communities or minority groups. For this purpose, existing measures will be applied strictly.” He added, “If that does not prove sufficient, additional measures will be submitted to Parliament for approval.”
In the past, Botha’s ruling National Party itself used anti-Semitic propaganda. In the 1940′s they portrayed Dutch-descent Afrikaner whites as victims of exploitation by the Jewish business community.
In addressing the Parliament Tuesday, Botha said: “I want to tell the Jewish community of South Africa: We appreciate your contribution to the economic, cultural and technological achievements of our fatherland.” He stressed, “We reject racial superiority. We reject religious coercion.”