On the afternoon of 15 November
1988, twenty-three year-old Barend Hendrik Strydom donned camouflage-style
army fatigue, loaded his 9 mm pistol, and set out for central Pretoria.
His pockets bulged: he was carrying a further two magazines and
200 loose bullets. At around 3 p.m. he parked his car in Prinsloo
Street and walked to Strjdom Square - specially chosen for its links
to Prime Minister J.G. Strydom, who had strong apartheid ideals
- and began shooting any black person who got in his way. After
shooting one man outside the State Theatre, he crossed Church Street
and headed towards Prinsloo Street. On the corner of Church and
Prinsloo Streets, he shot two more people. One of his victims was
a man standing in the street; another a woman sitting inside a taxi.
Strydom carried on walking down Prinsloo Street. “It was important
to keep moving during the operation to keep the element of surprise”,
he explained. “I ran and looked around searching for blacks.
I did not look at their faces...”. After walking three blocks,
shooting a number of innocent pedestrians as he went, Strydom turned
down Struben Street and entered Sato Engineering. He went over to
a counter and began to reload a magazine. At this point, Mr Simon
Mukondoleli (32), who had bravely followed Strydom into the shop
pretending to be a customer, walked up and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Excuse me baas, but that baas is calling you,” he said.
When Strydom looked round, Mr Mukondoleli snatched the gun from
the counter and pointed it at him. Strydom raised his hands. “You've
got me,” he said. The two men then walked out into the street
together where several policemen arrested Strydom. “I am king
of the Wit Wolwe,” Strydom said, just before being taken away
in a police car. That afternoon, Pretoria saw a smiling Strydom
murder eight people and wound a further sixteen - many of them seriously.
“The shootings were to show the world that there are boere
(farmers) in the southern part of Africa who will fight to protect
what is theirs,” Strydom said. At the police station, after
being told that he had killed five or six people, he replied: “I
”He said that he felt
nothing for the victims,” Lieutenant Viljoen, the investigating
By the time Hendrik Strydom
was sixteen he was already a member of a number of extremist right-wing
organisations and had visions of an all-white nation being established
in South Africa. He claimed to have attended a veldschool in Standard
8, where he had been warned against the communist system as well
as drug and alchohol abuse. “We were taught to be proud of
our country,”he said. “I began to read many books on
politics in South Africa and also attended right-wing meetings.
They were the only true political movements - unlike the Nationalist
government which lies to the people.” He saw some of the reform
movements introduced by the government as a ,sell-out. His views
were encouraged by his father, Mr Nic Strydom, an ex policeman,
an elder in the Nederduits Hervormde Kerk, and a former regional
leader of the Heidelberg Afrikaaner Weerstands beweging (AWB). Mr
Nic Strydom would later claim proudly in court that he had 'planted
the seeds of religion and right-wing political views' in his son's
heart. He also maintained that his son was a dedicated churchgoer
and a person who strongly believed in God. “I explained to
him that, according to the Bible, each nation should have its own
church and religion, which Hendrik accepted whole heartedly.”
It was also Mr Strydom's belief that 'blacks were animals'. “Blacks
are not human beings according to the Bible, and many books I have
read, and in my eyes they are animals. Many books Hendrik and I
have read state, among other things, that Jews of today are not
whites, blacks are animals and all whites stem from the Israelites,”
Mr Strydom added.
His son claimed that as a result
of his political involvement and dedication to the Herstigte Nationale
Party, the Conservative Party and the AWB, his schoolwork had suffered
and his marks had deteriorated. After matriculating in 1984, he
joined the police force. “I became more aware of the enemy,
especially people belonging to the left-wing organizations such
as the United Democratic Front and the so-called Workers Union and
their affiliated organizations, which were all African National
Congress front movements.” He saw the actions, which the government
was taking to combat internal rebellion as ineffective and began
to fear that South Africa was going to the communists. “My
interest in politics stems from an internal fear that for myself
as a young man, the government could not ensure a good future and
the older generation were becoming tired of fighting the enemy.”
After graduating from police
college, Strydom was stationed at Nigel. On one occasion he saw
the corpse of a white nurse who had been killed during a riot. This
made a marked impression on him and served to confirm his worst
fears: the country was at war and blacks, who threatened the survival
of whites, were the 'enemy'. Indeed, as far as he was concerned,
blacks threatened the survival of ail on the planet. “There
has been a decrease in the oxygen level in central Africa because
blacks removed the trees there,” he maintained. Some time
later, he attended a motorcar accident in which a black man had
been decapitated. He had a photograph of himself taken holding the
man's head aloft and had wanted the picture - plus the words 'ANC
beware!' - printed in the police magazine, Servamus. He was prevented
from doing this and not long afterwards was investigated by the
security branch regarding his involvement in right-wing politics.
“I was approached by the security branch about 30 times,”
Strydom said. It was in the latter half of 1988, that he decided
to take matters into his own hands.
A week before the Strjdom Square
massacre, Strydom visited the Voortrekker Monument to pray and re-enact
the Blood River vow. “I prayed and asked the lord to show
his will and to see I was not hindered in carrying out the deeds...”
That night, he drove to Wheeler's
Farm squatter camp at De Deur near Vereeniging, where he shot dead
one woman and wounded another. This was a practice run he maintained,
to see if he was mentally and physically capable of shooting people.
After the shooting, he camped on a farm at Heidelberg where he prayed
and meditated for two days. He did this, he said, to see if God
was happy with his plan or not.”I got no sign to indicate
I must not carry on,” he added. Four days later, he drove
into central Pretoria and shot dead eight innocent people.
The so-called Wit Wolf trial
began on Monday, 15 May 1989, at the Pretoria Supreme Court. The
courtroom was packed to capacity on every day of the nine-day hearing
and large crowds, marshalled by a contingent of riot police, gathered
outside the courthouse. Strydom was charged with eight counts of
murder, 16 charges of attempted murder, and one of pointing a firearm.
He pleaded not guilty. On the first two days, the State called a
number of witnesses to the stand but no one appeared for the defence.
(By the end of the trial 33 people had appeared for the State and
4 for the defence).
On Wednesday, 17 May, Mr Justice
Louis Harms found Strydom guilty on all counts and called for arguments
in mitigation of sentence. “I see what I did as totally correct,”
Strydom declared the following day. “If I had to do it again
I would do the same thing”. When questioned about the Wit
Wolwe movement, Strydom maintained that it had been established
in February 1986, but would give no further details. The police
claimed that investigations indicated that the Wit Wolwe was merely
a figment of Strydoms imagination. When it was put to the accused
that he was bragging in an attempt to make himself important, Strydom
On 25 May, the day Mr Justice
Harms was to pass sentence, Court C was packed with Strydom's family,
friends and supporters - including an elderly couple in traditional
Voortrekker dress, over an hour before Strydom was due to appear.
When he was finally brought up from the cells, he was warmly greeted
by well-wishers. His stepmother, Mrs Daphne Strydom, after embracing
him, kissed him on the cheek and said proudly: “Jy's 'n boer.”
(You're a farmer). Strydom, the self-styled leader of the Wit Wolwe,
was sentenced to death eight times. A short gasp was the only sound
heard in the courtroom when sentence was passed. Minutes later,
Strydom was whisked away to the Pretoria Central Prison. Outside
the courthouse, a smiling Mrs Strydom told waiting pressmen that
she 'felt good' and was proud of being a boer. “Die Vierkieur
hooq,” (The Vierkieur is high) she cried. (The Vierkieur was
the name of the flag of the independent Boer republic called for
in the Transvaal in the late nineteenth century.)
Most of the people waiting outside
the court believed the sentence to be appropriate. One onlooker,
Mr Jospeh Mongale of Soshanguve, claimed that the outcome of the
trial would restore faith in South Africa's judicial system. The
outcome was fair and most expected just that, he said. Miss Belina
Khumalo, one of Strydom's victims, said that she thought justice
had been done. A more cautionary note, however, Mr M. Motsheka,
the Transvaal chairman of the National Association of Democratic
lawyers, declared: “He is a victim of apartheid and the crimes
he committed and the sentence imposed on him are the product of
apartheid. Sentencing Strydom to death will not cure the evil of
In a press interview given a
few days after the sentencing, Mr Nic Strydom told reporters: “I'm
proud of Hendrik because he sacrificed himself for his beliefs.
He is an honest man and I respect him for that. He killed for love
the love of a nation.”
On 2 February 1990, the South
African government declared a moratorium on capital punishment.
No executions have been carried out since that date.
Hendrik Strydom remained on
death row until he was granted amnesty following the 1994 democratic
elections. On 27 May 1989, Mr Simon Mukondoleli was presented with
a R3 000 reward by the police for his heroic action in disarming
Strydom and preventing further loss of life. Mr Mkondeleli received
a number of death threats for his effort.
On 2 October 1989, Strydom became
engaged to Miss Karin Rautenbach, a twenty-two year-old final-year
student at Pretoria Teachers Training College. The romance started
with an exchange of letters after Strydom's conviction and sentence.
Miss Rautenbach put the engagement ring on her own finger since
she was separated from her fiance by a glass partition. Strydom
and Rautenbach were married on 27 November 1989, while Strydom was
on death row at Pretoria Central Prison. After the twenty-minute
ceremony, the couple were allowed their first physical contact -
in the presence of a prison warder. After their 'half-hour honeymoon'
Strydom was returned to his cell. When the new Mrs Strydom was asked
how she felt about not being able to have children, she said, “As
things stand now, a black majority rule is inevitable. We must accept
that black revolutionaries will seek revenge like in most former
colonies. When that happens I do not want my children to fall prey
to them. Without complete freedom and self-government for white
people of this country there is no future for the next generation.”
Mrs Trudy Rautenbach, the bride's mother, was proud of her daughter.
Her son-in-law, she said, “Was, a fine boer boy full of character”,
she said. After an internal investigation at Pretoria Teachers'
Training College into Karin's activities, no action was taken against
In July 1990, bomb attacks were
made against the home and business premises of Democratic Party
councillor, Mr Clive Gilbert, the home of a National Party member
of the Johannesburg City Council, Mr Jan Burger, and on a synagogue
in Rosettenville. An English-speaking man who contacted The Citizen
newspaper claimed that the Wit Wolwe were responsible.
Many people saw paralles between
the Strydom trial and that of another famous patriot Sydney Robert
Liebbrandt. In 1943 Sydney Robert Liebbrandt, a boer rebel, was
sentanced to death for treason. Although Sydney refused to give
evidence at any stage in the trial, he claimed that he had acted
for Volk and Fuhrer and gave the Nazi salute when he first entered
the court, to which several spectators responded. After being sentanced
to death Liebbrandt shouted loudly and clearly "I greet death".
(Strydom aknowledged Liebbrandt as one of his heroes)
Strydom and his wife are presently
living in Gauteng.