31 January 2013

South Africa: Worcester Bomb Survivors to Meet Perpetrator

Pretoria — Survivors of the 1996 Worcester bombing are to meet with the man who was behind the blast at the Correctional Services C-Max prison in Pretoria today.

Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele on Wednesday welcomed the group of survivors and families of the victims who arrived by train from Cape Town at the Pretoria train station.

The Department of Correctional Services had arranged for the group to come to Gauteng to meet with Stefaans Coetzee, the man who was behind the bombing at the Worcester Mall on Christmas Eve in 1996.

The incident left four people dead, including three children and one adult male. There were 67 survivors that sustained injuries.

The meeting between Coetzee and the survivors is part of the Victim-Offender Dialogue (VOD) programme, launched by the department last year.

The aim of the programme is to bring victims of crime, offenders and communities together so that relationships can be restored and start the journey towards forgiveness.

"We want to create opportunities where various stakeholders, defined as victims of crime; those affected personally, their families, communities, religious and spiritual bodies assemble together with offenders, with a single purpose to rebuild our communities ravaged by crime," Ndebele said.

The minister said the offender must be given a chance to apologise to those he has wronged.

According to Ndebele, Coetzee, who was 18 at the time, has turned his life around and he was prepared to meet those that he had hurt.

Most of the survivors have healed, while some still have visible scars like Olga Macingwane, who is limping due to the injuries she sustained during the blast.

Speaking to SAnews, Macingwane said she has put everything behind her. "As a Christian, I felt I should forgive him."

For Macingwane, today's meeting will not be the first face-to-face encounter with Coetzee, after having met him in 2009.

Macingwane also encouraged the rest of the group to forgive Coetzee for what he had done to them.

The rest of the group is also looking forward to meeting Coetzee, saying they are prepared to forgive him.

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