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@city­

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.”


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


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


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