Lessons we can learn from the Skielik shootings

Johann NelOn 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.


  1. says

    Two of the victims here were children, one 10 and the other only 3 months. There is no excusing this. IMO, the man got what he deserved.

  2. says

    @Lyndi: I think the most damning aspect of Johann Nel’s case is the fact that this was not his first offence. He rectified his failure to kill a black person when he was 14 years old, by his shooting spree at Skielik. I doubt whether he can ever be rehabilitated. Freeing him would expose more South Africans to danger.

  3. Tommy says

    Most people live in a closed minded society and fail to see the reality of the situation. The previous government did exactly the same causing racial tensions and frementing hate. This government is doing the same. I was never racist but now am and it took me 10 years and that i believe lays squarely at the door of the government. The blacks are racist to the core yet hide it. Believe me i know and see it daily.They are the most intolerant people i have ever met and hence the fear and loathing felt by millions of people of other colour. Majority are too afraid to spaek out for fear of been labled racist. What causes racism. I can state it is the persons who sow the seeds by excluding other population groups from inclusiveness. This the present government is doing. They should carry the responsibility for the actions of individuals who become this way. Unfortunately some resort to violence while others like myself endure it and hate in our minds. Let me make myself clear i love other population groups so wether i am racist is debatetable. the group i despise the most is the one causing the racism. Till we all are equal and treated the same in this country recism will continue. Dont bring up the past and blame parents. We had 14 years to get it right seems we only went backward. Look at how the coloureds indians and minor groups are treated in their own country. Been excluded and only black enough if they do well in sports and other events overseas bringing pride home. Sweep your own doorway before you look at others. This government is racist to the core and hides behind it with laws like the old government did.

  4. says

    I agree with Richard. Murder against those guilty, while still murder, makes more sense than just killing a group of people. If this guy has a soul at all, killing two innocent children should hurt him more than those 176 years in jail.