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Andrew Zondo, the Amanzimtoti bomb and the ANC’s tainted heroes

December 23, 2015 deur Ernst Roets

While Government argues that names of places and streets such as Pretoria or Church Street should change because these seemingly give offense and cause pain, residents and holiday-makers in Amanzimtoti today do their Christmas shopping in a street named Andrew Zondo Street. Today, it will be exactly 30 years since the traumatic bomb explosion for which the ANC hails Andrew Zondo as hero.

On 23 December 1985, Zondo (a member of the ANC Youth League) placed a bomb in a dustbin at the Wimpy in the Sanlam Shopping Centre. Five people were killed in the explosion, while another 40 were injured. The five deceased included two women and three children (one only a baby) – each and every one a soft target.

Irma Bencini (48) was one of the deceased. Her stepdaughter, Debbie Scott, an Amanzimtoti resident, reacted with rage on the name change of this coastal town’s main street:

“I remember that day when we were all excitedly preparing for Christmas. I went to the then OK Bazaar near Sanlam Centre and my stepmother said she needed to go into the nearby supermarket. Within a few minutes I heard a loud bang and realised she was in danger. I rushed to the scene and found her body. She died instantly… My dad Mario has never been the same since then, and that incident will forever haunt us. Surely Zondo knew that planting a bomb in a supermarket was going to kill innocent people.”

Anna Shearer (43) was also killed in the attack. Her stepdaughter, Priscilla Shearer, started crying when she learned of Government’s proposal to honour Zondo with a street name:

“What happened to my stepmother was terrible and I cannot bear to imagine Kingsway Road being renamed after such a vicious man. I live in Doonside and travel on Kingsway Road often. It’s really a travesty that the council would even consider this. There are many people in Amanzimtoti who remember this bombing and the pain it caused. They will never accept this.”

There is no logic reason why anyone should argue that a name such as Church Street gives offense, and then change Kingsway to Andrew Zondo Street and expect people do their shopping in a street that reminds them of the man who killed their families.

Zondo reacted furiously at the time because so few people died in the attack. He was arrested shortly thereafter and appeared in the Natal High Court before Judge Ramon Leon. Although Judge Leon was against the death penalty, he was unable to find any mitigating circumstances and therefore handed down the death sentence. The sentence was later upheld by the Court of Appeal. Ramon Leon’s son, Tony Leon, would later become the leader of the opposition under the ANC government, where members of Parliament of the ANC tried to discredit him as a result of his father’s handling of the Zondo matter.

In 1999, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma declared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:

“The depth of our humanity is illustrated by the fact that the judge, who had the discretion to hang or not to hang a young revolutionary like Andrew Zondo is still a judge, and his progeny enjoys the direct fruit of the very freedom that Andrew Zondo died for.”

The Amanzimtoti bomb attack happened only a few months after the ANC’s policy conference in Kabwe, Zambia. The leadership of the ANC, under the leadership of O.R. Tambo, formally decided at this conference that the ANC no longer had to distinguish between hard and soft targets in its military operations. Shortly thereafter, a series of murders were committed on innocent people. The Amanzimtoti bomb was only of these. Another well-known example was the Messina landmine attack, in which the Van Eck and De Nysschen families were killed.

During the making of the documentary film Tainted Heroes, I questioned General Siphiwe Nyanda, former Chief of Staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC’s military wing, about the hero worship of Zondo. Nyanda explained:

“The fact that Andrew Zondo was engaged in such an act, does not make him an outcast in our own vocabulary. He is still our hero, he is still a hero, I agree.”

The handling of the Andrew Zondo case is symptomatic of the gross double standards that are applied in South Africa, especially regarding its history. History is presented by the Government as one in which everyone who was in the ANC’s embrace are presented as untainted heroes, while everyone not involved with the ANC are presented as evil. This rendition of history is not only wrong, but also spiteful and extremely dangerous. The ANC’s twisted narrative of the past is used to justify grossly discriminating policies such as black empowerment, and offensive decisions such as the changing of Kingsway Street to Andrew Zondo Street.

We have to break this modified narrative of history with might and main. This is why we have worked on the documentary film Tainted Heroes for the past three years. Tainted Heroes tells the history from the Soweto uprisings of 1976 up to the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as President in 1994. The documentary focuses especially on those who are today hailed as heroes by the ANC. And Andrew Zondo is but one of them…

Watch the Tainted Heroes trailer here

  • Ernst is Deputy CEO of AfriForum. Follow Ernst on Twitter at @ernstroets.