Car Bomb Kills 2, Hurts 42 as S. African Elections Near
A powerful car bomb exploded outside a shopping center in a small mining town Monday, killing two men and injuring 42 others as anti-apartheid guerrillas stepped up their attacks on the eve of nationwide municipal elections.
The blast came amid one of the most intensive guerrilla assaults on the country in many months. More than 50 hand grenades, mines and gasoline bombs have exploded since Sept. 1, many of them at municipal offices in black townships.
Few of the recent blasts had caused serious injuries until Friday, when a 1-year-old black girl was killed by a mine at a township polling station near Johannesburg. Her 4-year-old brother and three other people were injured.
Blast in Parking Lot
The latest bomb exploded in a shopping center parking lot in Witbank, a white community about 70 miles east of Johannesburg, shortly before the stores opened Monday morning. Thousands of windows were shattered, including those in the nearby magistrate’s court and police offices.
“There were people covered in blood, holding their faces, everywhere. I just wanted to be sick,” San Pereira, 22, manager of a nearby shop, told a local newspaper. She described the scene as “utter madness and chaos.”
Hundreds of people, blacks and whites, lined up at the hospital to donate blood for the injured, including people of both races. Two of the injured were pregnant women. Many of the donors had come from their jobs at coal mines in the area.
The car loaded with explosives, a white Ford, was parked near the clinic of Dr. Peter Clark. Clark left his Mercedes-Benz next to the Ford less than 15 minutes before the explosion. His offices were heavily damaged, but he was not injured.
The dead men, both black, were not identified. One was believed to have been a security guard at the shopping center.
Authorities said the blast apparently was related to an African National Congress campaign to disrupt the municipal elections scheduled for Wednesday.
Blacks Urged Not to Vote
The outlawed ANC, the principal group fighting Pretoria’s white-minority rule, and other anti-apartheid groups have called on blacks to boycott the voting. The ANC has backed that boycott call with attacks on local government institutions.
In addition, half a dozen buildings housing church, labor and community anti-apartheid organizations have been heavily damaged or destroyed in recent months, apparently by pro-apartheid groups. There have been no arrests in those cases.
The Ministry of Law and Order has offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of terrorists attempting to disrupt the elections. It also has set up an anti-intimidation unit to investigate cases of activists threatening black voters.