OLGA MACINGWANE, who was injured in a terror bombing in Worcester 16 years ago, travelled from Cape Town to a prison in Pretoria to meet one of the bombers – and was filled with anger during the journey.
But when she came face-to-face with Daniel Stephanus “Stefaans” Coetzee, who was 18 at the time of the blasts and who asked to meet survivors, Macingwane’s anger faded.
“I got a shock. I felt pain for him. When he told me his story, I saw it was not his fault,” she said yesterday.
Though her leg was so badly injured in the bombing that she still walks with a limp, Macingwane forgave Coetzee three years ago on November 9, 2009.
He had told her that when he was released from prison he wanted to marry and become a teacher.
“I said: ‘I will pray for you to get out. Then we can work together’.”
On Christmas Eve in 1996, two bombs exploded in Worcester killing four people, two of them nine-year-old children, and injuring 67 others.
One bomb went off outside a supermarket and another at a nearby pharmacy.
Coetzee, Nicolaas Clifton Barnard, 40 at the time of the bombings, Abraham Liebrecht Myburgh, then 23, as well as Johannes Benjamin Van der Westhuizen, 45 at the time, were arrested and admitted they had chosen to attack the stores because black and coloured people shopped there.
Macingwane will receive the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation’s Reconciliation Award for 2011 this afternoon.
Previous recipients of the annual award include former Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs and former chairwoman of the Electoral Commission Brigalia Bam.
Yesterday Macingwane, 53, laughed nervously when talking about being the latest recipient: “I’m very nervous, so nervous. I don’t know what I did to get it.”
The mother of three and grandmother said after she had met Coetzee, who is still in prison in Pretoria, a number of the blast victims had questioned her and had been angry.
She said this had led to the formation of the Worcester Hope and Reconciliation Process, a partnership between residents, the Restitution Foundation and the Khulumani Support Group.
Macingwane steered the process.
“I thought no, it’s not going to be a project.
“I wanted it to be called a process so that it would continue on to children and grandchildren,” she said.
Macingwane tried to get authorities at the prison Coetzee was being held in to allow him to travel to Cape Town so that other victims could meet him, but without success.
She planned to organise a trip for some victims to Pretoria to meet him in prison.
She said she was shocked when on her birthday in September this year, she received a “special card”.
“Stefaans sent me a birthday card this year.
“It was such a nice surprise,” Macingwane said.
The other bombers did not appear to want to meet their victims and she was therefore still afraid of them.
In a letter from Coetzee to his blast victims, posted on the Khulumani website and dated December last year, he said he would only be able to comprehend the full impact of what had happened “on the day I will be able to face you in person”.
He said he had requested a Bible in prison and six years ago he had experienced “a new beginning in my heart”.
“Soon thereafter a desire was born in my heart to personally meet the victims whom I have wronged.
“This dream was fulfiled in 2009 when Olga Macingwane visited me in prison.
“I did not expect her to forgive me, but the love in her heart imparted grace and forgiveness which resulted in freedom beyond understanding,” he said.