It’s time to forget the past say bomb victims

2011-10-15 18:45

“Let him go free.”

So said Olga Macingwane, a ­victim of the Christmas Eve bomb attack in Worcester in 1996, referring to one of the far-rightwing bombers who nearly took her life.

Nearly 15 years after a powerful pipe bomb ripped through the Worcester Shoprite killing four people, including two children, and injuring 65, “it’s time to leave the past behind us. South Africans must become reconciled. We can’t put it off any longer”.

Macingwane, from Zwelethemba township near Worcester, said that after she visited Stefaans Coetzee, who is from Winburg in the Free State, in Pretoria Central prison she forgave him unconditionally.

“He was used by the system. I have peace in my heart,” she said.

Coetzee was found guilty, with Cliffie Barnard and Koper Myburgh, of detonating two bombs in the shop on 24 December 1996 and targeting blacks and Coloured people in particular.

Coetzee was working on a farm in the area. He was 18 years old at the time.

On Thursday, Macingwane was the “face” of the Worcester Hope and Reconciliation Movement, which was formed after the attack.

About 300 people, including political, teaching, church and business leaders, and many farmers from the area, expressed their regret over the apartheid atrocities of the past.

“They are planning many actions in the town to encourage reconciliation.

“Worcester’s Shoprite is the only branch of the group that has not put up Christmas decorations again since the bomb attack,” Claude Schroeder, the leader of the movement, said.

Macingwane said she was paying for her groceries that afternoon when the bomb went off.

“I had just handed over the money, the next moment I was crawling around on the ground. I saw my swollen legs.

“After that I knew nothing. I woke up in the hospital. I never saw the girl behind the cash register again.”

She said that Coetzee asked two years ago whether he could meet her to ask for her forgiveness.

“At first I did not want to. I was angry, bitter. People were killed, and I and other people have been suffering from our injuries for years.”

In the end she decided to undertake the trip to Pretoria Central.

“Stefaans cried when he saw me. We embraced. I forgave him on the spot. It just entered my heart. It was for my own good.

“At first he didn’t believe I had forgiven him, but I felt his pain when he told me everything.

“I asked him about everything and realised it’s not for me to judge. Judgment is for God.”

Macingwane said South Africa must take the path that she has taken.

“It’s a long path, but the past belongs to the past. Just look at Madiba. There is no hate in him.”

She says it is her wish that Coetzee should be released.

“He has taken the path of reconciliation. I want Stefaans to come and work with me and motivate other people to do the same as he has done.”

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