Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.
Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.
In January 2008, 18-year-old Johan Nel from Swartruggens — a small farming town in North West Province, South Africa — murdered 4 black South Africans in a racially motivated shooting spree.
On the day of the attack, Johan took a bolt-action rifle and more than 100 rounds of ammunition to a squatter camp near his city. While shouting “kaffir” (a racial slur in South Africa), he murdered 4 people: 31-year-old Anna Moiphitlhi and her 3-month-old daughter Elizabeth; 10-year-old Enoch Motshelanoka; and 36-year-old Sivuyile Peyi. He also injured 11 other people. At one point during the attack he took time to ask a neighboring farmer for more bullets. When the farmer refused, Johan shot one of his ostriches. His victims were “defenseless,” some of them “were relaxing under a tree, others were gardening or just walking down the road.”
After the attacks, the editor of South Africa’s Times newspaper noted that, “Nel was born after the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC. He was schooled while Mandela was president under a curriculum reformed to properly reflect South African history.” However, Johan’s education was primarily through homeschooling. His parents, Hennie and Corrie Nel, took him out of public school to homeschool him and he never was “exposed to others’ cultures.” Johan was reported to be a “young, brainwashed racist” who had “no regard for black people’s lives.” Johan began equating black people with baboons and birds at the age of 15.
According to reports, Johan showed signs of PTSD, anxiety, and destructive disorders. He was himself assaulted 5 years prior in 2003 by someone with a sickle. Johan also harbored immense anger towards the world. After the attacks, Johan told his mother that, “Something just snapped inside me.”
View the case index here.