Toti’s bomb still echoes

Three decades since An­drew Zondo bombed Xmas shop­pers at the San­lam Cen­tre, his fam­ily and sur­viv­ing vic­tims’ lives re­main for­ever changed

CityPress - - News - PADDY HARPER paddy.harper@city­press.co.za

It’s a boil­ing-hot Fri­day lunch time at Toti Mall. Fes­tive sea­son tourists wan­der in from the beach across the promenade. Faster-mov­ing lo­cals catch up on their shop­ping. The mall is a typ­i­cal KwaZulu-Na­tal sea­side shop­ping cen­tre – an eclec­tic mix of small shops spread out around a su­per­mar­ket. A hair salon; a com­puter shop; a Chi­nese shop sell­ing ev­ery­thing from flip flops to ra­zor blades; an op­tometrist.

The clien­tele is just as var­ied. There’s a run on the grilled brisket with chips, roll and salad for R30 a pop at Toti­li­cious, one of a row of fast-food out­lets in what used to be the San­lam Cen­tre.

It’s hard to imag­ine that 30 years ago this un­re­mark­able mall was the scene of a bomb blast that claimed four lives – two of them chil­dren – and in­jured 140 peo­ple on De­cem­ber 23.

The bomb­ing was car­ried out by 19-yearold ANC Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) op­er­a­tive An­drew Sibusiso Zondo in re­sponse to an SA De­fence Force raid on Maseru three days ear­lier in which nine peo­ple, many of them non­com­bat­ants, were killed in a cross-border op­er­a­tion aimed at desta­bil­is­ing the ANC’s for­ward op­er­at­ing bases in the front­line states.

Cornio Smit (8), Willem van Wyk (2), Irma Bencini (48) and Anna Shearer (43) were killed in the blast from a limpet mine Zondo placed in a rub­bish bin. At his trial, he tes­ti­fied his in­tended tar­get had been the SAA of­fices at the cen­tre.

Zondo, ar­rested in Fe­bru­ary 1986, re­ceived five death sen­tences from Judge Ra­mon Leon and was ex­e­cuted in Pre­to­ria on Septem­ber 9. Two of his ac­com­plices, Phumezo Nxi­weni and Stan­ley Sipho Bhila, were ac­quit­ted. A third, Them­binkosi Mofokeng, turned state wit­ness.

The Toti Bomb­ing, as it be­came known, was one of the ANC’s first oper­a­tions against civil­ian tar­gets and came in re­sponse to a se­ries of deadly cross-border raids in Swazi­land, Mozam­bique and Le­sotho from 1981 in which in­creas­ing num­bers of non­com­bat­ants were killed in­dis­crim­i­nately.

The pas­sage of time seems to have done lit­tle to take away the pain Zondo’s fam­ily and com­rades carry. His fa­ther, Rev­erend Aiken Zondo of the African Apos­tolic Church, is ill fol­low­ing the death in Novem­ber of his wife, Lephina, and was un­able to talk to City Press.

The fam­ily’s suf­fer­ing did not end with the pain of An­drew be­ing ex­e­cuted and buried in an un­marked grave. His re­mains were re­buried at Dur­ban’s Red Hill Ceme­tery in 2006.

Zondo’s brother, Mdu, was so se­verely as­saulted by po­lice at An­drew’s me­mo­rial ser­vice at the fam­ily home that he de­vel­oped epilepsy, from which he later died. Two activists were also shot dead at the ser­vice. Se­cu­rity po­lice mur­dered both Nxi­weni and Bhila. Nxi­weni was thrown off a cliff. Bhila was shot and buried in a shal­low grave. Their killers, all rank­ing Se­cu­rity Branch of­fi­cers, were granted amnesty by the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion (TRC).

Dianne de Vos (50) then an ap­pren­tice printer at Repub­li­can Press, was at her flat in Af­saal, a block next to the mall, on the day of the blast. Her mother, Yvonne, was in­side the cen­tre do­ing last-minute Christ­mas shop­ping.

“I was on leave. It was some­where be­tween 11 and 12. I was watch­ing Fame when the bomb went off. I thought the lift had come off its ca­bles it was so loud. Then I saw the smoke com­ing from the cen­tre. All I could think of was my mum in the OK Bazaars,” she says.

“I ran into the cen­tre with­out think­ing about it. I wanted to see that my mum was al­right. There was a lit­tle boy ly­ing on the floor. His face was blown off. Gone. His nanny’s foot was blown off. The three doc­tors who were in the cen­tre were at­tend­ing to peo­ple. An­sie Prinsloo was car­ry­ing triplets. She lost two and the third was born blind and deaf,” re­calls De Vos.

“My mum was in the OK Bazaars when the bomb went off. The peo­ple in OK were lucky be­cause the win­dows just shat­tered, so no­body was killed or badly hurt.

“It’s 30 years, but I can still see ev­ery­thing clearly. I’ll never forget that lit­tle boy with no face. I didn’t know what was go­ing on un­til two cops caught me and brought me out of the cen­tre. That’s when the re­al­ity hit,” she says.

De Vos says she re­fuses to re­main “trapped” by the past.

“I had night­mares for a long time over what I saw and what hap­pened. You have to get up and carry on,” she says.

Dr Si­bongiseni Dhlomo, Zondo’s MK com­rade who was jailed on Robben Is­land for his role in the 1985/86 bomb­ing cam­paign known as Op­er­a­tion But­ter­fly, is re­luc­tant to talk about the trauma suf­fered by the Zondo fam­ily.

“This is not the right time to talk about this as An­drew’s fam­ily and com­rades, as we laid his mother to rest last month and his fa­ther is in very ill health,” he says.

Zondo was tried separately to the Dur­ban 12, as the But­ter­fly ac­cused were known dur­ing their trial in the high court in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg.

“It was very hard on the Zondo fam­ily,” said Dhlomo. “Even af­ter killing An­drew, the po­lice never stopped ha­rass­ing them. What more can you do to a fam­ily who has al­ready lost their son? It was very trau­matic for them. Till to­day, the fam­ily has not re­cov­ered from it psy­cho­log­i­cally. The fam­ily really is not well,” he says.

In 1996, Cornio Smit’s fa­ther, Hen­nie, tes­ti­fied at the TRC’s hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions hear­ings in Johannesburg. Smit, who had ear­lier met Zondo’s par­ents at his Pre­to­ria home, moved com­mis­sion­ers by say­ing that his son had “died in the cause of the op­pressed peo­ple”. Smit, who told the TRC he had been called a “traitor” for his views, said he met Zondo’s fam­ily to try to understand what had hap­pened.

“I’ve got no grudge against them. I mean, it was ac­tu­ally a re­bel­lion. It was a war. In war, things hap­pen that the gen­er­als don’t plan. No­body plans it. It just hap­pens,” he said in his ev­i­dence.

An­dre Beetge, the DA coun­cil­lor for Ward 97, un­der which the mall falls, says Toti to­day is a far cry from what it was when black beach­go­ers were ter­rorised by lo­cal AWB mem­bers in the early 1990s. Still, of its 25 000 res­i­dents to­day, only 22% are black and 69% white.

Res­i­dents, he says, vaguely re­mem­ber the bomb­ing but give it lit­tle thought. How­ever, the re­nam­ing of Kingsway Road, in which the mall is sit­u­ated, to An­drew Zondo by the eThekwini mu­nic­i­pal­ity did spark “a lot of re­sent­ment”.

“That caused an­i­mos­ity. Peo­ple still use the name Kingsway, not An­drew Zondo. Peo­ple have rec­on­ciled here and there aren’t in­ci­dents of racial in­tol­er­ance, but the re­nam­ing caused hurt,” he says. Pas­tor Zondo was among those who op­posed the name change at the time, say­ing it would open old wounds.

Su­gen Gounden, the owner of a com­puter shop next to the spot where Zondo’s bomb ex­ploded, is aware of the history, but not in de­tail.

Gounden, who moved to Amanzimtoti from Reser­voir Hills 15 years ago, says that while there re­mains a “2%” racist el­e­ment in the area, “Toti is lovely”.

Farouk Dan­gor, who bought the mall from San­lam for R14 mil­lion in 1995, sees the irony of an In­dian man from Klerks­dorp own­ing a mall in a town that was once a right-wing strong­hold.

“When I bought it I didn’t know any­thing about the bomb­ing. I come from Klerks­dorp, so I don’t know pol­i­tics. I was look­ing to in­vest in com­mer­cial property and the price ap­pealed to me, so I went for it,” he says.

“We were scared, at first. This was a heavy verkrampte [con­ser­va­tive] area, and we were think­ing th­ese guys were go­ing to beat us up.

“When we bought the mall we couldn’t even go to the beach here, that’s how bad it was. Things have changed, thank God.”

PHO­TOS: TE­BOGO LETSIE

‘TOTI IS LOVELY’ Su­gen Gounden, the owner of a com­puter shop next to the spot where Zondo’s bomb ex­ploded in 1985

A WORLD

APART The shop­ping

cen­tre that was bombed

by An­drew Zondo in 1985

is to­day a hive of happy

ac­tiv­ity. It was bought

by a businessman

from North West in 1995

for R14 mil­lion and has been re­named Toti

Mall

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