The horror started just before midnight on Wednesday this week.
After listening to the latest television news about the health of Nelson Mandela, a South African family living not far from the former President’s hospital unit turned in for the night.
But Roelof and Laura du Plessis, a married couple with four children who live on a heavily fortified farm outside Pretoria, did not have a peaceful night’s rest.
In fact they were about to become the latest victims of what white pressure groups in this troubled nation say is nothing less than a savage war against them.
Hearing noises outside their home, Mr du Plessis, 46, got out of bed and ran outside.
To his horror, he found his 19-year-old son being held with a gun to his head by a gang of five armed black attackers.
Father and son were ordered to lie on the ground. The invaders did not ask for money or the keys to the expensive vehicles in the drive. They were there only to terrorise and kill.
Hearing voices outside, Laura, 44, came out of her bedroom to investigate — and her torch illuminated an awful scene as the gang pointed guns at her husband.
Her son managed to get up and sprint off into the darkness when the men were confused by the flashlight. But Du Plessis was not so lucky.
The intruders opened fire at once, shooting him six times through the throat, lungs and abdomen.
As he writhed on the ground in agony, the men ran off into the night leaving empty bullet cartridges littering the yard.
In the darkness, Laura attempted heart massage on her husband, who could still talk despite his appalling injuries, but to no avail.
Last month alone there were 25 murders of white landowners, and more than 100 attacks, while Afrikaner protest groups claim that more than 4,000 have been killed since Mandela came to power — twice as many as the number of policemen who have died.
It is not just the death toll, but the extreme violence that is often brought to bear, that causes the greatest fear in the white community.
Documented cases of farm killings make for gruesome reading, with children murdered along with their parents, one family suffocated with plastic bags and countless brutal rapes of elderly women and young children.
These horrors have prompted Genocide Watch — a respected American organisation which monitors violence around the world — to claim that the murders of ‘Afrikaner farmers and other whites is organised by racist communists determined to drive whites out of South Africa, nationalise farms and mines, and bring on all the horrors of a communist state’.
Indeed, a disturbing number of whites are terrified that Mandela’s passing will lead to an outpouring of violence from black South Africans, no longer contained by the sheer power of the great man’s presence, which endures today even though he stood down as president in 1999.
For its part, the ruling ANC party dismisses claims that such murders are part of any sinister agenda, pointing out that South Africans of all colours suffer violent crime, and that wealthy whites are simply more likely to be targeted.
Perhaps. But white nerves have not been soothed by the disturbing behaviour of Jacob Zuma, the ANC’s leader and the country’s third black president since Mandela.
At a centenary gathering of the African National Congress last year, Zuma was filmed singing a so-called ‘struggle song’ called Kill The Boer (the old name for much of the white Afrikaner population).
As fellow senior ANC members clapped along, Zuma sang: ‘We are going to shoot them, they are going to run, Shoot the Boer, shoot them, they are going to run, Shoot the Boer, we are going to hit them, they are going to run, the Cabinet will shoot them, with the machine-gun, the Cabinet will shoot them, with the machine-gun . . .’
Alongside him was a notorious character called Julius ‘Juju’ Malema, a former leader of the ANC youth league, who is now Zuma’s bitter enemy and is reportedly planning to launch a new political party after Mandela’s death.
A bogeyman to white South Africans, Malema is popular among young blacks, and has also been an enthusiastic singer of Kill The Boer and another song called Bring Me My Machine-Gun.
Polls this week showed a huge surge in support among young black South Africans for his policies, which he says will ignore reconciliation, and fight for social justice in an ‘onslaught against [the] white male monopoly’.
With chilling echoes of neighbouring Zimbabwe, where dictator Robert Mugabe launched a murderous campaign to drive white farmers off the land in 2000, Malema wants all white-owned land to be seized without compensation, along with nationalisation of the country’s lucrative mines.
Ominously, Malema, 32, who wears a trademark beret and has a fondness for Rolex watches, this month promised his new party will take the land from white people without recompense and give it to blacks.