Blast opposite the Athlone Magistrate’s Court and police complex kills two people

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Sunday, 23 July 1989

On 23 July 1989 a blast occurred opposite the Athlone Magistrate's Court and police complex which took the lives of two African National Congress(ANC) activists.  Two activists, Coline Williams and Robbie Waterwitch from Cape Town, were killed when the explosive device they were attempting to plant, opposite the Athlone Magistrates Court and Police Station, detonated prematurely. However foul play was suspected, since it was known that the underground cell Williams and Waterwitch were part of was under surveillance and some sources speculate had already been infiltrated by the South African security apparatus. Witnesses who examined the bodies before the funeral said that the injuries sustained by the two were inconsistent with their manner of death.

In her evidence to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission(TRC), Coline's sister, Selina Williams, given the force of the explosion, it was highly suspicious that some of Coline's more fragile belongings that she was carrying escaped the blast unscathed. It is plausible that the cell Coline and Robbie belonged to had been supplied with deliberately malfunctioning devices, since fellow members of their cell testified that they were trained in the use of the devices and would not have accidently detonated the device. The injuries visible on their bodies were more consistent with death through torture than death by an explosive device. 

References:
• Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report (1996), "UWC Hearing-Day", 7 August,From:Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report,[online], Available at: www.justice.gov.za,[Accessed: 10July 2014]
• Los Angeles Times,(1989), "The World", 6 August,From:Los Angeles Times,[online], Available at:  articles.latimes.com,[Accessed 10 July 2014]

Last updated : 22-Jul-2014

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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