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
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
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: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all