Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Church Street Bombing

This is an excerpt of an on-line discussion with a fellow who was not aware of Nelson Mandela's violent past.

Hi Richard

I too opposed Apartheid and I do not agree with the sentiments of the Springbok club at all. They do not represent my views, however I used their website as a reference as this 'event' from Mandela's life seems to have been downplayed or glossed over in the traditional history of the Anti-Apartheid struggle. The sources are very scarce.

However the fact of the matter is that the Church Street Bombing did occur - Mandela did consent to it - (he mentions this in his book). I was living in Pretoria at the time and my father's office was a few blocks from the site of the bombing. I remember this event very clearly. Church Street is the Yonge Street of Pretoria - the bomb went off at rush hour on a Friday afternoon to ensure maximum civilian casualties. The carnage was awful. There were many people (both black and white) who were cut to shreds by the falling glass from the surrounding buildings. Regardless of how one wishes to justify this act, it was terrible atrocity and probably didn't do much to advance the anti-apartheid struggle.

I do not believe (based on their life actions and philosophy) that neither Gandhi nor King would have consented to such violence. One does not hear of this bombing as it does not fit in with the current image of Mandela as a voice of peace. But we cannot deny the facts - it happened. Even Amnesty International would not endorse Mandela as he refused for a very long time to denounce violence.

Having said this I do respect Mandela's policy of reconciliation which seems to have temporarily healed some of the evils of the Apartheid Era (at least for now). But lets not forget history in our rush to embrace the future.

Your comparison with the King David Bombing, while on the surface comparable, does nor accurately reflect the same moral equivalency as the Church Street Bombing. The King David Hotel was the headquarters of the British forces in Palestine. The bomb threat was called in and many civilians left well in advance as did some of the military. However there were those who chose to stay (they were guided more by arrogance than anything else) and therefore paid the price. The King David Hotel was a justifiable military target.

I would have no complaint with the ANC attack on Church Street if the perpetrators had warned the civilian population ahead of time and chosen a military target instead. After all like the Irgun their struggle was legitimate.

Thanks for the opportunity to indulge.


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