VENTERSDORP, South Africa – Whites and blacks faced off angrily in song Tuesday in front of a heavily guarded South African courthouse before the first hearing of a teenager and another farm worker who have allegedly confessed to killing a white supremacist leader.
Police officers rushed to separate nearly 2,000 people split into white and black groups after a middle-aged white woman sprayed an energy drink on blacks singing the Zulu choruses of the country's national anthem. Whites had earlier been singing the parts of the national anthem that are in Afrikaans and that date to the apartheid era.
Police set up coils of razor wire to separate the groups — whites who said they were in the town of Ventersdorp, some 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of the capital Pretoria, to support the family of the slain farmer Eugene Terreblanche and blacks supporting the family of the 15-year-old suspect and his 28-year-old co-worker.
Minutes before the confrontation, far-right militant whites had provocatively waved old flags signifying white rule and launched into a rendition of the aparheid-era anthem in the Afrikaans language.
"We need more people in here — quick!" a police officer yelled, on the run, as the two groups advanced on each other and police scrambled to keep them apart.
Afterward, Pieter Steyn, the provincial leader of Terreblanche's Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging movement, better known as the AWB, apologized for the woman who sprayed the blacks.
Bomber Matinyane, regional director of a civil rights group, said the display of racist flags was angering people. He said whites should stop waving them and blacks should stop singing the inciting song "Kill the farmer."
Terreblanche's AWB has blamed African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema for the death, saying his insistence on singing the song about killing whites was hate speech that led to Terreblanche's killing.
Malema says the song was being sung before he was born and has nothing to do with Terreblanche's death.
Blacks outside the courthouse sang other songs from the struggle for majority rule that finally came in 1994 after years of state-sponsored violence by the white minority regime and urban guerrilla warfare waged by the African National Congress.
Tuesday's court hearing will not be public because the younger suspect is a minor. Police have not identified either of the suspects by name.