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Tue Sep 30 17:55:01 SAST 2014

Bomb victim befriends former Wit Wolf

SCHALK MOUTON | 31 January, 2013 08:00
Worcester bomb blast victim Olga Macingwane releases a pigeon to commemorate victims of a racist attack on Christmas Eve 15 years ago. She is flanked by Worcester mayor Basil Kivedo, left, and Professor Jonathan Jansen Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

For years, Olga Macingwane hated the men who planted the bomb that destroyed her life. Today, she will visit one of them in prison - as a friend.

Macingwane was one of almost 70 people injured in the December 24 1996 bombing at the Shoprite supermarket in Worcester, Western Cape. Four others, including three children, were killed in the blast.

For 13 years Macingwane, now 53, lived with anger, not knowing who planted the bomb or why.

Stefaans Coetzee, only 17 at the time of the bombing, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in planting the bomb, along with three other men, Jan van der Westhuizen, Abraham Myburgh and Nicolaas Barnard.

They were part of a white supremacist group, the Wit Wolwe.

Coetzee's only disappointment at the time was that two other concealed bombs had failed to detonate - he had wanted to kill as many blacks as possible.

Macingwane rode in on the "Peace Train", the Shosholoza Mail, yesterday with 67 others affected by the bomb to visit Coetzee at Pretoria Central prison . She first visited him four years ago.

"We have a connection now. We are friends."

The group was brought up from Worcester to meet Coetzee as part of the Department of Correctional Service's "victim-offender dialogue" programme. But Macingwane was way ahead of them.

In 2009, she decided that she wanted to "meet my perpetrator" and, with the help of an NGO, hired a car and a driver to travel to Pretoria to meet Coetzee.

She was shocked at his youth.

"I had expected a big man," she said.

At last, she scraped together the courage to ask him "Why?".

"He told me the whole story of how he hated blacks and how he was part of [a rightwing group].

"I then told him I forgive him. He didn't believe me and I had to say it again."

At the time of the bombing, Macingwane was a 37-year-old domestic worker with three teenaged children. It was the day before Christmas and her sister-in-law, Selina Mtuta, had asked her to accompany her on a last-minute Christmas shopping expedition.

Macingwane was about to pay for her goods when the bomb went off.

"The next thing I remember was that I woke up in hospital."

Both her legs had been broken and she lost her job because she was able to stand or walk for only a limited time.

Unlike his co-offenders, Coetzee has expressed remorse - but this does not mean his sentence will be reduced.

"It will be taken into consideration, " said James Smalberger, head of incarceration and correction for the Department of Correctional Services.

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Tue Sep 30 17:55:01 SAST 2014 ::