How the volk myth died: It took just a few minutes to change the course of South African history. John Carlin reports from Mafikeng

FOR seven years Eugene Terreblanche had been promising 'holy war' against 'the godless communists' of the African National Congress.

The time had finally come.

Shortly after midnight on Thursday, Fanie Uys, a panel- beater from the Northern Transvaal town of Naboomspruit, and his neighbour Alwyn Wolfaardt, a tractor repairman, both commandos of Terreblanche's Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), received a long-awaited call. They were to proceed to Mmabatho, capital of Bophuthatswana, and join forces with the massed ranks of the warrior white volk.

With their friend Nick Fourie, an AWB general, they drove through the night in an old Mercedes into Mmabatho. There they joined some 4,000 Boers who, by firing into the air and the crowds milling about the downtown shopping centre, restored what at first passed for a semblance of order. Mmabatho's black population had never felt more terrified.

At noon the Bophuthatswana police and army, decided, in the words of one soldier, 'to clean out the AWB'. The Mercedes and the pick-up trucks had no answer to the green armoured vehicles. Soldiers and policemen drove the right-wingers out of town like frightened sheep. Most fled to the airforce base, four miles out. A good number decided the time had come to go home.

Among them were Uys, Wolfaardt and Fourie. They sped in a convoy through a poor black area of Mafikeng, firing at passers-by . . . until they drove past the police headquarters.

The police, oppressors of the black population turned friends, had set an ambush. They opened fire on the AWB vehicles and a furious gun battle ensued, lasting some three minutes. Most of the AWB men got away. The men from Naboomspruit did not. Uys and Wolfaardt were wounded and Fourie died almost instantly. The Mercedes spun off the road.

What happened in the next minutes changed forever the archetypal image of racial violence in South Africa.

Uys, a balding man with a moustache, in his early thirties, dragged himself out of the car and rested against one of the rear tyres. Wolfaardt, an older man with a thick black beard, crawled past the body of his dead friend, Fourie, and gave up two yards farther on. He lay face down, bleeding.

Half a dozen reporters who had stumbled on to the scene recorded what followed.

A crowd of locals mingling with the policemen started taunting the two survivors. 'Who asked you to come here?' 'Are you sorry now?'

'Black bastards,' muttered Uys, before realising the folly of his words and pleading, 'Sorry, sorry, sorry.'

The police frisked Wolfaardt as he lay face down on the sandy roadside gravel. 'Fuck it]' he growled. 'Someone just get a fucking ambulance]'

Then he too changed his tune. 'Please God, help us] Get us some medical help]' he said. A brief, bizzare exchange followed between reporters and Uys. 'What's your name?' one asked. 'Fanie Uys.' 'How come you're here?' 'We were sent by the boss,' replied Wolfaardt.

Without warning, and to the horror of the assembled reporters, a policeman strolled up to the two men, pointed his automatic rifle, and fired two bullets into each at point-blank range, firing a further two for good measure into the body of Fourie, which he then proceeded to kick in the ribs.

The policeman had just seen two blacks killed by other AWB men, according to a photographer who witnessed the scene. Uys, Wolfaardt and Fourie, their forebears and their forebears' forebears, the volk, had one way or another been doing just that to blacks for 300 years. The extraordinary thing was that the collective act of revenge should have been captured for generations to come by the world's media. Those were not the thoughts of Wolfaardt's children who only learned of their father's death when they saw it on television.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Data Administrator

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of this mu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - £40,000 - £70,000 OTE

£40000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: (Senior) IT Business Analyst - London - European projects

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable global business is l...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Project Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness