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  • Written by  SCHALK MOUTON - www.timeslive.co.za
  • Published in In the News
  • Read 2173 times

Stefaans' journey from hell to forgiveness

67 victims travelled from Worcester on the Shosholoza Meyl on Wednesday to meet Stefaans Coetzee as part of the Department of Correctional Services' victim-offender dialogue programme.

Coetzee stood patiently yesterday with red, moist eyes when his victims confronted him with their stories. The Worcester community forgave Coetzee, the only one of his group willing to face them . He now shows remorse. "I am truly sorry," he said.

Times Live - It was a hot Tuesday afternoon. There was a buzz in the air. A day before Christmas, and everybody was doing their last-minute shopping to get ready for the big family lunches the next day. 

Macarena was playing at Shoprite in Worcester in the Western Cape. Like many others, Olga Macingwane had smelt a strange stench in the air. She had asked about it, but nobody could give her an answer . No one cared. It was Christmas eve.

This was exactly the euphoria that AWB members Stefaans Coetzee, Abraham Myburgh, Nicolaas Barnard and Jan van der Westhuizen had counted on.

Not only did they want to kill as many people as possible with the three bombs they had planted in and around Shoprite, they also wanted to steal their victims' joy.

"We knew it was Christmas and everybody was happy," Coetzee said at Pretoria Central Prison yesterday, addressing 67 victims of the 1996 Worcester bombing who had come to see him.

"We knew killing people would cause unhappiness, and I know that for the past 17 years you haven't been able to celebrate Christmas."

Four people, three of them children, died in the blast. About 80 people were injured, and one died of her wounds about four years later.

They chose the target with care.

"Women and children are the closest thing to a man's heart, so when you kill women and children you cause maximum damage."

The 67 travelled from Worcester on the Shosholoza Meyl on Wednesday to meet Coetzee as part of the Department of Correctional Services' victim-offender dialogue programme.

Coetzee, a bitter young man with a troubled background, was disappointed that not all of the three bombs had gone off, and that so few people had been killed.

"The second bomb had a three-minute time delay because we knew people would flock to the scene of the first bomb, and so many more would be killed," he told his victims yesterday.

Right after the bombing, he went home - to build more bombs.

"Unfortunately one of my colleagues dropped his ID at the scene."

The group was arrested. Only after 10 years in prison did he realise he had done wrong.

Coetzee stood patiently yesterday with red, moist eyes when his victims confronted him with their stories.

Esther Cenga, who worked in a nearby curtain and material shop, recognised Coetzee from days before the bombing.

"Ek onthou jou [I remember you], Stefaans. Jy was net 'n kind [you were only a child]," she told him yesterday.

For days before the bombing, Coetzee had hung around her shop daily.

"We thought he was just a child who was too lazy to go to school," said Cenga.

"Obviously he was scouting the place."

Cenga was standing at the till when she "smelt something like a dead dog". Then the bomb went off.

"I don't even remember hearing the explosion," she said.

Like Macingwane, she was one of the luckier ones.

Maxie Mngomezulu's uncle, Sydney Golile, 33, was not. He was sitting on top of a concrete dustbin when it exploded.

"When people talk about that day, I still remember it clearly," she said.

Her mother refused to attend meetings where the bombings are discussed as she still suffers anxiety attacks.

Jennewil April, who was only four on the day, lost his sister, Juaneen. They had been waiting for their mother outside the shop when the blast went off.

"We ran out and an aunty grabbed us and put us in an ambulance. My sister died in hospital."

The Worcester community forgave Coetzee, the only one of his group willing to face them .

He now shows remorse.

"I am truly sorry," he said.

"The green paper on human rights shouldn't be in a booklet. It should be in your heart. I had killed people with bombs. But there are a lot of people today who are killing people with their hearts."

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