A bomb blast rocks the ANC London office

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Sunday, 14 March 1982

On this day the African National Congress (ANC) headquarters in London, England, was bombed. General Johann Coetzee, former head of the South African security police, and seven other policemen, claimed responsibility for the attack and applied for amnesty before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Coetzee's accomplices were Craig Williamson, John McPherson, Roger Raven, Wybrand du Toit, John Adam, James Taylor and Eugene de Kock.

Coetzee testified that the South African government wanted to demoralise the ANC and display South Africa's disapproval of the British government and their support of the liberation organisation. According to Coetzee, he acted on orders of former minister of law and order, Louis le Grange, and had assumed that the assignment had the full support of the government. Coetzee denied any intention to kill ANC officials because this would have strained South Africa's diplomatic relations with Britain.

The decision to bomb the offices of the ANC in London was made as a result of a number of bombings conducted by the ANC in South Africa. The most prominent of these was a rocket attack on the military base at Voortrekkerhoogte, Pretoria, in August 1981. Two British citizens, Nicolas Heath and Miss Bonnie Lou Muller, alias Bonnie Heath, were identified as accomplices in the assault. Although the London attack did not stop ANC attacks in South Africa, it had a serious psychological effect.

South African police Commissioner, General Mike Geldenhuys, was against the London bombing, especially the plot to send active policemen to Britain. Reports on the size of the bomb differ. According to Roger Raven he used 4 blocks of explosives, each weighing 250g, which he detonated with an alarm clock device, while British police claim that the bomb weighed at least 4.5kg. Raven also said that the initial plan was to bomb both the ANC and South African Communist Party (SACP) offices in London. However, the SACP office was not bombed because it was located in an urban area

References:

  1. Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau
  2. London ANC blast aimed to demoralise [online], available at: dispatch.co.za [accessed 11 march 2010]
  3. ANC HQ bombers met London roadblock [online], available at: dispatch.co.za [accessed 11 march 2010]

Last updated : 13-Mar-2015

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