Today In Fact, 20 May

The Pretoria bombing. It was the beginning of afternoon rush hour traffic in downtown Pretoria in 1983. The town was filled with men and women in uniform as it was the administrative centre of the Republic. The Volkskas building is a large oddly shaped monstrosity built by some uninspired architects but it housed, at the time, the headquarters of the Airforce.

The car bomb went off 15 minutes early and killed the two operatives; Eddide Shangwe and Ezekial Maseko. The bomb killed 17 others, including civilians as well and wounding almost 250 people. Aboobaker Ismail was the commander of the bombing unit and the bombing was authorized by Oliver Tambo in retaliation for raids and killings of ANC operatives in exile in Lesotho and Mozambique.

During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 10 ANC operatives applied for amnesty for the bombing and were given amnesty.

I once met a survivor of the bombing in a pub in downtown Pretoria in the late 1990’s. He had lost a hand and had scarring on his front side. He was a bitter man and felt a deep anger at the course of events that led to his maiming. He had been an office cleaner at a local business and was on his way home from work that day.

The problem with bombs is that they are so messy.

Douglas Racionzer (for more of these daily updates, visit