HARISH NAROTAM rummages on a shelf stacked with medicine and returns with small pieces of plastic which he spreads on the surface of his pharmacy counter. “These are pieces of the pipe bomb… I keep these to remind me of how lucky I am.”
The pipe bomb he is referring to is the one that exploded outside his workplace, Narotam Pharmacy, in Worcester on Christmas Eve 14 years ago. Earlier, another bomb had exploded at the nearby Shoprite in an attack plotted and executed by four men who later admitted they had planted the bombs in those spots, as they had targeted black and coloured people who shopped there.
Four people were killed in the bombings and 67 others injured. Despite 14 years having gone by since the attacks, Narotam says he is still affected by it. “It’s psychological. I’ve got a problem with being in enclosed areas.
PHOTO RIGHT (www.capetimes.co.za): Harish Narotam in his Worcester pharmacy, where one of two bombs exploded 14 years ago. The shards of plastic in front of him are pieces of the pipe bomb he kept.“
For the first few years after it happened, loud noises scared me,” he says. As he touches the pieces of the pipe bomb he has kept, he says a few of the shards had been embedded in his head after the explosion.
“This piece was stuck in a woman’s leg,” he says pointing to the biggest piece. “She was badly injured. I held a towel to her chest. It was bleeding a lot. I don’t know what happened to her.”
On December 24, 1996 around 1.30pm, Narotam had been working at the pharmacy when he heard a loud bang. “I walked outside. Two of my employees were there manning a stall. I realised what the time was and was about to tell one of them he should go out to lunch. As I turned to him, the bomb went off. My employee got most of the impact that would’ve hit me,” he says.
He says his children, aged six and seven at the time of the bombs, had always played outside the pharmacy. “That day, for some reason, I told them to rather play after lunch. What a difference it made,” Narotam says. Commenting on the four men convicted of the bombings who were recommended for presidential pardons this week, Narotam said while he believed all people had rights, those who took other people’s rights away did not deserve to have any themselves.