Today in fact, 19 February.

Johannesburg was built, not on a river or by the sea but on gold and greed. If you want proof, next time you go to Johannesburg, take the Smit Street turnoff on the M1 South and head to Braamfontein. On your right is a railway yard behind some buildings just before the Nelson Mandela Bridge. This was the site of a great tragedy. On this day in 1896, one of the worst explosions in the history of South Africa occurred at what was then Braamfontein station when an explosives train, carrying about 60 tons of dynamite, which had been standing for 3½ days in summer heat, was struck by a shunting train. The explosion left a crater, sixty meters long, fifty meters wide and eight meters deep and was heard 200 km away. The exact number of casualties was never ascertained, but at least sixty-two people were killed and more than 200 seriously injured. Surrounding suburbs as far as Fordsburg were partially destroyed. Some 3 000 people lost their homes and almost every window in the town was shattered.

Douglas Racionzer (follow this series on