email a friend iconprinter friendly iconSouth Africa
Page [ 4 ] of 12

It is impossible to overestimate the reach and brutality of apartheid. Between 1948 and 1994, when the system was dismantled, the Afrikaans National Party applied hyper-segregation of races to every possible facet of life. "Apartheid so effectively enriched a few at the utter debasement of the majority—to say nothing of the imprisonment of so many, the exile, the disappearances, the violent deaths—that a mere end to the system could not begin to repair the damage," Tshepo Madlingozi says. Madlingozi is a 31-year-old senior lecturer of law at the University of Pretoria and an advocacy coordinator for the Khulumani Support Group, an organization of 58,000 victims of political violence, mainly during the apartheid era. "You can say, Everybody is equal now; let's get on with it. That suits those who benefited from the system—but it does nothing to institute restorative justice, and it can't undo generations of habitual racism, palpable hate, or feelings of inadequacy."

The Prisoner

Less than a month after the Worcester bombing, 19-year-old Daniel Stephanus "Stefaans" Coetzee phoned the police from his hideout on a farm in the heart of the Great Karoo highlands—a sparsely populated, semiarid region in the central west of the country—and claimed responsibility for his part in the atrocity. Coetzee addressed the police officer in charge with respectful deference: "Oom," he called him. "Uncle." He said he had heard that there were children among the dead, and for that reason he had no choice but to turn himself in. The boy had reserved country manners and a country person's way of keeping himself contained, catlike.

At the time he was taken into custody, and for some years after, Coetzee was a member of nearly every extreme right-wing, white supremacist group in South Africa, including one or two so secret and obscure that not even the people in them seem capable of explaining exactly what they are: Wit Wolwe, Israel Visie, Boere Aanvals Troepe. From prison Coetzee continued to communicate with members of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States and neo-Nazi groups in Germany, encouraging them in their endeavors. He rose up the ranks of the national groups' pseudo-military structures. As white supremacists go, Coetzee was a poster boy. In the pecking order of the Helderstroom Maximum Security Prison in Western Cape Province, however, he was pond life. "I was 19 years old and white. Everyone wanted to rape me," Coetzee says of those first years in overcrowded general cells holding between 60 and 120 men. "I couldn't get a bottom bunk. I couldn't even get a top bunk. I couldn't get any bunk at all." Coetzee slept on the floor.

Page [ 4 ] of 12