On January 14 2008, South Africa was shocked by the random shootings of 11 ordinary (black) people in the Skielik settlement near Swartruggens. Johann Nel, a 17 year old white Afrikaner, was sentenced on Friday November 21 2008 to 176 years in prison for shooting his fellow South Africans, whose “crime” was being black.
Dr Irma Labuschagne, a forensic criminologist, testified at his trial in mitigation of his sentence, saying “I don’t think even he knows [why he did it].” I find that to be a disengenuous statement. I think it’s clear why he did it – he formed a deep and implacable hatred of black people, and from an early age too. Previously, at age 14, Johann Nel had shot at Petros Mabe, later testifying that he thought Mabe was a baboon. In hindsight it seems highly likely that this was a lie Nel told the court. Nel most likely knew full well that he was shooting at a black person and what is true is that Nel thinks of black people as being baboons.
What is very sad to me, is to read comments online of obviously white Afrikaans people defending Nel’s actions and justifying them by saying that black criminals routinely murder white people with no consequences. That is false, but it seems many white Afrikaners have decided that in their reality black South Africans get a free pass to kill white South Africans. Nothing could be further from the truth and they would quickly disabuse themselves of this racist and false notion by paying more attention to events which are reported in the media. They could also sit in on trials and witness for themselves black criminals being sentenced to long sentences for murder, rape, armed robbery etc.
No-one of any colour in South Africa is given a free pass to commit crimes against others. That is the truth of the matter and anything other than this truth is mere racist propaganda.
However, it is this ongoing racist propaganda, circulated amongst certain white South Africans that led to the deep disatisfaction and hate that spurred Johann Nel to commit his acts of murder in the first place.
At his trial, Labuschagne listed a number of criminal events that impacted Nel that she feels helped shape his views on black people. Essentially, the crimes perpetrated on members of his family and friends helped Nel decide that black South Africans were the problem and his personal enemy. Killing all black people was his way to solve the problem of crime against his (white) community.
It would perhaps be more forgiveable if Nel had taken the time and trouble to investigate and identify the actual people responsible for these crimes and execute them instead of random people who had nothing to do with the crimes that had touched his life. But this is the shortcut that racists take – they brand everyone with hate, instead of clinically targetting those responsible.