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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


No justice for bomb deaths 40 years on

40 years after the tragedy, families and survivors gather for remembrance, demanding accountability.


Justice has still not been served 40 years after a bomb attack on Church Street in Pretoria on 20 May, 1983, killed 19 people, including the two perpetrators, and wounded 217 others.

Yesterday, a small group of people from Friends of Victims gathered at the bomb site in remembrance of the tragedy.

Friends of Victims

Madeleine Bolton, who was working as secretary for an army brigadier at the time, attended the commemoration in honour of two former colleagues who lost their lives in the bombing.

“I was working a bit later that day when we heard an explosion. I said to the brigadier that I am sure it was a bomb,” she said.

“I went down the passage to look through a window on the other side and saw a car alight. Then it went quiet and I heard the glass scattering,” she added.

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Bolton said when they went outside it was dark. “I remember passing two ladies before the old Woolworths and one of them had a piece of glass in her back. I saw fire everywhere,” she said.

Lot of people lost their lives

Freedom Front Plus member of the provincial legislation Kobus Hoffman, who has been visiting the site for years, said it was important to revisit the day.

“A lot of people lost their lives that day. They were massacred in front of this building by a huge bomb.

“There are a lot of South Africans who have lost their lives for the freedom we think we have today, but that we don’t have. We are still not free,” he said.

Hoffman said there had been no justice for the victims of this massacre.

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“That’s a problem in South Africa we are happy to conceal. There are plenty of people who have suffered on both sides.

“The Church Street bombing was one of the significant bombings in South Africa that left many hurt for years.

“People died for a better South Africa. I don’t think people died for politicians to fill their pockets. They died for real freedom and hope and we don’t see that in South Africa,” he said.

SA more divided than before

Wessel Basson, who was also at the site, said South Africa was more divided than before.

“This is disrespect for civilians in South Africa. Where is the ANC, the old National Party? What have they done to commemorate the people that lost their lives?” he said.

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“This bombing shouldn’t be a race thing because people died here. It doesn’t matter if they were black or white; people died here,” he added.

Basson said there would never be closure until justice prevailed and those who played a part in the bombing were held accountable.

One of the worst attacks in SA

Teresa Coetzee, City of Tshwane specialist researcher in the office of the chief whip, said visiting the remembrance site made her aware of how far our country has come.

“This is an important day in our history because the Church Street bombing was one of the worst attacks ever in South Africa.

“To deny this is to ignore and dishonour the victims. Many innocent people were killed, including children, mothers and the elderly. It should never be forgotten.

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“Apartheid was evil, but liberation organisations also committed heinous crimes,” she said.

Coetzee said it was sad that the criminals responsible had never paid the price for it.

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