Four rightwingers convicted of bombings in Worcester 14 years ago are among 149 prisoners who have been recommended for presidential pardons. Reporter CARYN DOLLEY and photographer CINDY WAXA (of the Cape Times) visited Worcester yesterday to speak to a survivor and families of victims who lost their lives in the blasts.
Busakwe, 73, known as Mama Nomatyala in the Zwelethemba community where she lives, explains her daughter Sweetness bought the furniture and ornaments for her decades ago and she refuses to part with the gifts. Sweetness, one of six children, was severely injured in the 1996 Christmas Eve Worcester bombings.
She was working in Shoprite on the day a bomb went off outside the store. Four years after the tragedy, Sweetness, aged 26, died as a result of her injuries. “She was my everything. She was the breadwinner of this house. “It’s difficult. “When Sweetness was alive the fridge used to be full. Now it’s empty.
“All I have is my pension money, which I spend on pills. I sometimes ask neighbours for sugar and money to buy bread. Sometimes I just pray God will take me from this hard life,” Busakwe says, tears filling her eyes. She suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure and has to wear thick bandages around her stomach, as her waist muscles have weakened.
Busakwe needs a walking stick and moves around with slow, heavy steps. She says her health problems started after Sweetness died and she relies heavily on medication. She cannot sleep without taking pills and when she does not take pills for stress, she says, she starts shaking and blacks out.
Busakwe’s husband, Bennet, also suffered after her death and died five years after Sweetness. “After Sweetie went, he got sick. “He was crying in his heart. He lost his mind. He didn’t know who he was. I looked after him like he was a baby,” Busakwe says, wiping tears from her cheeks. She clearly remembers the day Sweetness died. Busakwe had wanted to change the pillows she was using, but Sweetness said: “No, Mama, you must sleep.” “I could see her face was changing ... Her breathing became harder. “At 6am on a Sunday she passed away.”
Busakwe said she could not forgive the four men, Nicolaas Clifton Barnard, Daniel Stephanus Coetzee, Abraham Liebrecht Myburgh and Johannes Benjamin van der Westhuizen, who were convicted of the bombings. The four were recommended this week for presidential pardons. Their victims have been invited to comment on this.
Busakwe told the Cape Times they belonged in jail. “I lost Sweetness because of them. “I lost my husband because of them. My life is like this today because of them. This will never go away.” Busakwe says if she ever comes face to face with the four, she will ask them to bring Sweetness back to her. All she has now are fading memories of her daughter, who loved to sing. “I can still hear her singing. She loved it… But she’s gone,” Busakwe says.
In another section of Zwelethemba is the home of Angelina Matshoba, whose nine-year-old son Xolani was killed in the Shoprite blast. Matshoba works as a domestic worker for two days every week and was at work yesterday and unavailable to speak. Her granddaughter, Ntombi-zandile Plaaitjies, 21, says Matshoba still speaks about her son. “She thinks about him a lot, especially around Christmas.”
Plaaitjies says if the family had more money they would celebrate on Xolani’s birthday each year, but they cannot afford to. “We have no money for a party.” Plaaitjies says that of Matshoba’s five children, only two are alive. “Xolani died in 1996. “My aunt and her other child, Nonqaba, died three years ago. She had Aids,” Plaaitjies says. The only item on the wall in the cramped living room is a framed picture of Nonqaba, who died at the age of 37. Plaaitjies says her uncle, the third of Matshoba’s children to have died, was killed last year. Police found his body, but aside from saying he was attacked, could not provide the family with other details. Plaaitjies says her mother and another aunt are Matshoba’s surviving children.