South African white far-right leader Eugene Terre'blanche, who fought to preserve apartheid in the early 1990s, has been beaten and hacked to death at his farm.

‘He was hacked to death while he was taking a nap,’ one family friend, a member of Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), said.

Local media quoted another party member as saying he was beaten with pipes and machetes.

Police in the town of Ventersdorp said two men were in custody over the killing and the motive was unclear.

Terre'blanche had lived in relative obscurity despite the revival of his party two years ago and recent efforts to form a united front among white far-right groups.

He was the voice of hardline white opposition to the end of minority rule, but has had a low public profile since his release in 2004 from prison after serving a sentence for beating a black man nearly to death.