Strydom was raised in a right-wing family, his father, Nic Strydom, was AWB regional leader for Heidelberg, Transvaal, and was an elder in the NGK Dutch Reformed Church. At Barend's trial his father proudly announced that he had "planted the seeds of his son's views".
Strydom, by the age of 16, was very active in right-wing politics, he had, by right-wingers, been warned of the dangers of communism and drug and alcohol abuse. His opinions were nurtured by his father, Nic Strydom, an ex-policeman. Nic Strydom later said, "I explained to him (Barend) that, according to the Bible, each nation should have its own Church and religion, which he accepted wholeheartedly".
Barend was a dedicated Churchgoer.
Nic Strydom's more extreme beliefs were cited as a primary reason why Barend was so fanatical, Nic Strydom said that he believed Black people to be animals, and that this was a Biblically-based belief.
He said, "Blacks are not human beings according to the Bible, and many books I have read, in my eyes they are animals. Many books Hendrik (Barend's middle name by which his father referred to him) 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".
Whilst a police officer he attended a car crash, in which a Black motorist had been decapitated. Strydom persuaded a friend to photograph him holding the decapitated Black man's head and then Strydom asked the official magazine of the South African Police (called Servamus) to publish the photo along with the words "ANC Beware". They refused and knowledge of Strydom's picture came to the attention of the Security Branch.
Strydom was not shy of making his beliefs known, he raised the Vierkleur (Four Colour flag) of the Transvaal republic above his police station instead of the South African flag.
Due to his views his barracks were raided and large amounts of AWB literature, as well as the picture of the decapitated Black man, were confiscated.
As a result of his views he was expelled from the police, he was, in 1988 alone, approached some 30 times by the Security Branch of the police who wanted to talk to him about his opinions.
One week before committing the Strijdom Square massacre Barend went to Wheeler's Farm squatter camp in DeDeur, near the town of Vereeniging. Here he shot one Black woman, killing her.
He later said that this excursion was to see if he was psychologically capable of murder.
He then meditated for several days, Strydom was a devout Christian and followed the Christian Identity belief system (which maintains that Whites are the true Israelites and non-Whites are not human).
The night prior to the massacre he went to the Voortrekker monument and prayed to God that he was not hindered in his deeds. He then asked God whether or not he should continue with his plans, he said that God gave him no signs that he should not proceed with his plans.
On November 15, 1988 Strydom parked his car in Prinsloo Street, central Pretoria, at approximately 3 pm. He was carrying some 200 loose bullets in his pockets, as well as two extra magazines for his 9mm pistol. He was wearing a police-issue camouflage jacket and an AWB belt buckle.
He made his way to Strijdom Square, where there was usually, during the afternoon, a large population of Blacks, unemployed and employed alike, it had become a favourite spot for inner-city workers. There was large numbers of people eating, talking and sleeping in the various leisure spots which were situated beside Strijdom Square.
Barend chose Strijdom Square because, until 2001, it contained a monument to a former Apartheid-era Prime Minister, J.G. Strijdom.
Barend appeared on the square and began firing at any Black person within his line of sight, he reported that, "I shot one in the stomach, he was eating a hamburger, he just looked at me and laughed, so I shot him again". Strydom shot a municipal street sweeper in the torso, killing him.
He walked across the square and exited at the northern side of the square, which were facing a row of Indian-owned shops, here Strydom shot an Indian shopkeeper who can come outside to investigate the gunshots.
From here Strydom turned down Struben Street and walked in SATO Engineering, where he began to reload his pistol, at this point a 32 year old Black man named Simon Munkondeleli approached Strydom from behind and tapped on his shoulder. Munkondeleli said, "Excuse me baas (Baas is Afrikaans for boss and was how Blacks were expected to address Whites under Apartheid) but that baas is calling you". When Strydom turned around Munkondeleli snatched the pistol from him and turned it on him.
A group of policemen arrived and arrested Strydom shortly thereafter who proclaimed, "I am the King of the White Wolves".
Arrest and detention
Strydom was immediately taken to a police station, where he was informed that his killing spree (in which he shot 24 people) had killed "five or six people" (the final death toll was 7). He replied, "I shot badly".
The officer in charge of the case, Lieutenant Viljoen said of Strydom, "He felt nothing for the victims".
Whilst in police custody it emerged that Strydom was behind the so-called White Wolves, which had sent death threats to prominent South African liberals. The White Wolves (actually a mere figment of Strydom's imagination) claimed responsibility for the fire bombing of a left-wing Church (it later came to light that members of the Security Branch of the South African Police were responsible for the attack and that Strydom had merely taken 'credit' for it).
He was convicted of 8 counts of murder, 16 of attempted murder and one of pointing a firearm on May 17, 1989 at the Pretoria High Court. He was sentenced to death 8 times over.
His father said he was proud that his son had died fightfing for what he believed in.
His colorful comments during his trial invariably decreased any sympathy for him, he allegedly said, "Blacks are not human".
The South African government acted quickly to appease the international community, who were angered at the massacre perpetrated by Strydom. The government banned the White Liberation Movement (known by its Afrikaans acronym of BBB) even though the BBB was in no way involved in the killings, nor was Strydom a member or supporter, but it was done to please outsiders and make the world know that the South African government was prepared to act against the right-wing.
The AWB received relatively little bad publicity, even though Strydom was a very active AWB member, he was awarded a medal by the AWB in 1987 for helping to place a large AWB banner on the Voortrekker Monument.
In the South African Sunday Times, the newspaper with the most readers in the country, Terre'Blanche said that the AWB was not to blame and that Strydom had acted alone.
Even so, a large AWB banner was photographed by the press, it was held up in Church Square, Pretoria, during an AWB rally and read "Free Strydom, Hang Mandela".
In 1990 the South African government imposed a law ending the use of capital punishment, accordingly Strydom's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment at that stage.
In 1994 he was released along with 150 other political prisoners.
He was scheduled to launch an application for amnesty to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but withdrew it.
He currently lives with his wife, whom he married whilst imprisoned, in Gauteng province.
Wit Wolf was the nickname ascribed to Strydom, it translates as White Wolf. Prior to the massacre in November 1988, Strydom had claimed responsibility, in the name of the White Wolves (a figment of his imagination), to have firebombed a left-wing Church and he sent death threats to State-President FW DeKlerk.
Links of interest
- -Terrorist or freedom fighter (New York Times article)
- -Strydom withdraws amnesty application (1998)
On January 14, 2008 a 18 year old Afrikaner, named Johan Nel, allegedly shot 10 Blacks (killing 4 of them) in a racially motivated spree at Skielik township, located near to the town of Swartruggens.
He is currently undergoing pschiatric assessment at Weskoppies Hospital and will then go on trial for murder.
- Victory or Violence:Story of the AWB of South Africa by Arthur Kemp (2nd edition. March 2008)