May 8, 1996 Sapa


"There was a horrendous noise and a flash of lights. There was chaos, with flesh and blood dripping from the walls. I remember seeing a half a head and smelling burnt flesh."

This graphic description of the aftermath of the 1985 bombing of Magoo's Bar on Durban's beachfront, which left three people dead and dozens injured, was heard by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Wednesday.

Testifying on the second day of the commission's Durban hearings, bar manager Helen Kearney said "all hell let loose" shortly after 10pm on June 14, 1985, when a normal Saturday night for regulars at Magoo's Bar came to an abrupt end.

"I remember flashing red, blue and green lights. There was a horrendous noise. Everything happened so fast. It was a massive bloodbath."

She said people were walking about in a daze with shards of glass imbedded in their heads and backs.

Almost 10 years after the attack many of the survivors had succeeded in putting their lives back together, until it was announced that African National Congress member Robert McBride, who put the bomb in the bar, was to receive an ambassadorial post, Kearney said.

McBride was sentenced to death three times for his part in the attack. He later received amnesty and was released from prison in 1992.

He recently gave up his seat in the Gauteng legislature to take up a post as deputy director in the Department of Foreign Affairs' Far East and Asian directorate.

"We don't wish him any harm. We just feel this post is wrong. He feels no remorse and has no conscience. I don't think he has ever spoken to one of the survivors," Kearney said.

"Some of the victims are badly off and need support whether it be financial or medical support or counselling. The victims need to be traced and looked after," she said.

South African Press Association, 1996
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