South African president Jacob Zuma called for national unity after the murder of white supremacists leader Eugene Terreblanche (photo, from bbc.co.uk).
South African leaders have warned against any attempt by white supremacists to avenge the murder after the remnants of Mr Terreblanche’s AWB party vowed revenge.
The party blames Julius Malema, head of the ruling ANC’s Youth League, for inflammatory actions.
Last month, Malema led college students in a song about killing white farmers.
He is due to return from Zimbabwe later in the day, and correspondents say his response to calls for calm is keenly awaited.
Mr Terreblanche, 69, was attacked on Saturday evening at home on his farm near the town of Ventersdorp, North West province.
If it is not handled sensitively, such a prominent killing could rapidly trigger racial violence, and president Zuma knows it. Therefore he was quick to condemn the attack amid criticism that he had failed to rein in the ANC Youth League.
On Sunday, he went on television in order to condemn what he called a “cowardly” murder.
He said he had spoken to Mr Terreblanche’s daughter and hoped to speak to the leader’s wife in order to convey his condolences.
“This is one of the sad moments for our country that a leader of his standing should be murdered,” said Mr Zuma.
He added that South Africans must not let anyone take advantage of the “terrible deed” by inciting racial hatred.
Zuma’s call for calm was echoed by the AWB (Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, or Afrikaner Resistance Movement) while relatives and friends of Mr Terreblanche gathered near his home to pay their respects on Sunday.
However, Andre Visagie, the far-right movement’s secretary general, said Mr Terreblanche’s killing had political overtones.
“The next step for the AWB will be to bury their leader in peace, but thereafter we shall avenge the death of our leader,” he said.
“Of course we do blame Julius Malema,” Visagie told the BBC.
“The death of Mr Terreblanche is a declaration of war by the black community of South Africa to the white community that has been killed for 10 years on end.”
He said there was “fierce anger” among AWB members and added : “They all call for revenge for Eugene Terreblanche’s death.”
According to Visagie, some members advocated violent retribution, but he encouraged them to wait until actions could be co-ordinated “right across the country”.
Since the end of apatheid in 1994, more than 3,000 white farmers are estimated to have been murdered.
In 2003, a committee of inquiry found that there was a political or racial motive in only 2% of farm attacks, even though critics said this figure was far too low.
Others point out that some 50 people, mostly black, are killed every day in South Africa – a country with one of the world’s highest rates of violent crime.
Last week, Malema was banned by South Africa’s High Court from singing the racially charged apartheid-era song with the words “kill the Boer”. It ruled the song was hate speech, but the ANC is appealing.
Boer means a farmer in Afrikaans,yet sometimes it is used as a disparaging term for any white person in South Africa.
Malema denied responsibility during his official visit to Zimbabwe.
“The ANC will respond to that issue. On a personal capacity, I’m not going to respond to what people are saying. I’m in Zimbabwe now, I’m not linked to this.”
The town of Ventersdorp has already seen some heated racial exchanges since the killing.
“A black guy killed a white guy. Obviously it’s going to stir a lot of trouble,” said Kgomotso Kgamanyane, a cashier at a local petrol station.
“Just earlier a customer came in, a white guy, and he told us to go to hell,” he told AFP news agency. “It could get violent, because whites in their minds they think that we did it because of hate.”
Two male farm workers, aged 21 and 15, have been arrested and charged. Police say they beat Mr Terreblanche to death in a dispute over wages.
Mr Terreblanche had founded the white supremacist AWB in 1973, in order to oppose what he regarded as the liberal policies of the then-South African government.
In the run-up to South Africa’s first democratic elections, the AWB tried terrorist tactics and threatened civil war, before sliding into relative obscurity.
In 2001, Terreblanche was convicted of the attempted murder of a farm worker and served three years for it.