BLOODIED BUT DEFIANT, SOUTH AFRICANS VOW . . . WE WILL VOTE_BOMBERS DON’T STOP VOTE

By GENE MUSTAIN and MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writers | Tuesday, April 26, 1994

GERMISTON—Dennis Makubela will vote. Someone almost killed him yesterday, but he will vote.

Mavis Phungula will vote. Someone almost killed her too, when a bomb—the worst of many that exploded across the country yesterday—destroyed a crowded taxi stand in this mining town near Johannesburg. But she will vote.

It is not known if Poppy Skosana will vote. She was too distraught to talk, for the bomb had severed her son Dickson in two and thrown the top half of him, still in the bucket seat of his taxi, 50 yards down Hudson Street.

But Philemon Maseko will vote. He was standing on Hudson Street when half of Dickson Skosana in the bucket seat landed on top of him. He was taken to the same hospital as the others, and he will vote.

Maseko, like Makubela and Phungula, will vote today, a day earlier than he planned because today is when South Africans hospitalized or disabled, or who live abroad, vote in the nation’s first all-race election. The rest vote on Wednesday and Thursday, and hold their breath against an unfolding terror campaign that most lay at the doorstep of radical whites.

Germiston’s bomb was bigger than the one that rocked Johannesburg on Sunday, killing nine and injuring 92. That bomb was likely an attack on the African National Congress, the government-in-waiting. This bomb was meant to kill people, black people, and it did, 10 of them.

But most of the 38 people who were injured will be able to vote today when a mobile polling station pulls up to Willem Cruywagen Hospital, where yesterday those who could talk told their stories.

“I’m so heartbroken,” Makubela said. “It seems like it’s only the blacks who are getting hurt. I don’t know what’s going on.”

Makubela, married with two kids, was stocking shelves at a nearby cafe when the bomb turned tha taxi stand, which serves the nearby black township of Katlehong, into a wasteland of body parts, jagged metal and broken glass.

He suffered severe cuts over most of his body. “But whatever happens, I am not going to let this stop me from voting,” he said, dabbing his forehead with a bloody cloth while a nurse pointed out his other wounds.

For 350 years here, ever since whites arrived, blacks haven’t been able to vote. Now that liberation is near, bombs won’t stop them, Phungula said.

She was working the register at a grocery store where the Katlehong taxis line up. She wishes now she had been more suspicious when she saw two white men drive up, unhook a trailer from their car, then drive off again.

“I thought it was funny,” she said, still slightly in shock, just before the police came to interview her. “But it wasn’t my business.”

She said it’s obvious now that “the white right-wingers” want to scare blacks away from the polls. “But I ain’t scared.”

At the scene, much supported the police estimate that about 220 pounds of explosives were inside the trailer. Huge chunks of metal and glass were strewn for blocks in all directions. The undercarriage of one taxi had been tossed up like a child’s toy into a tree, where it hung upside down.

Oddly, only 30 feet away, a sidewalk concession stand remain intact, and a little yellow river of broken-egg yolk dripped from the stand to the ground and mixed with the blood of corpses blown a few feet farther away.

“The bodies are so badly mangled, it’s hard to tell the races of the victims,” said a police official, Wikus Weber, although it turned out later that all the dead were blacks. Four of the injured were white.

Police said they were questioning several suspects. Though they deny responsibility for either bomb, and several other explosions, including one that killed two and injured 40 in Pretoria, various right-wing groups have pledged a violent war against the new government.

But the people will vote.

“No matter how much they threaten us or try to intimidate us, we’re going to vote in this election,” said Nelson Ngwenyama, chairman of the Katlehong People’s Taxi Association, who came to the scene to inspect the carnage.

Ngwenyama, like almost all of the hundreds of blacks who came to watch police and soldiers place bodies and body parts in yellow cars bound for the morgue, was in a subdued mood. Other than Poppy Skosana, who was standing near the blood left by her son, no one was crying.

Instead of anger, there was determination; instead of sadness, defiance.

“Everybody knows who did this, the white right-wingers, and why,” said Ruth Seleladi, whose nearby hairdressing salon was now a pile of debris. “They want to stop the election, but they never will.”