JOHANNESBURG (IPS)–Despite some unease, South Africans remained undisturbed by nine bomb blasts, blamed on right wingers, that damaged rail links between Soweto–South Africa’s largest township–and Johannesburg, its economic capital, on Oct. 30.
The bombs exploded between midnight and 4 a.m. local time, leading to speculation that they were not meant to kill, but rather to make a political statement.
So far, nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks, although there is widespread speculation that conservative White right-wingers are behind them.
In late September, the South African police arrested and charged a group of 13 right-wingers with treason after they were caught in possession of a large cache of weapons and explosives. They allegedly planned to violently overthrow the government and re-establish White rule in South Africa. White rule ended in 1994, after Nelson Mandela was elected South Africa’s first Black president.
Although not blaming the racist right-wingers directly, South African President Thabo Mbeki said information security forces had gathered about “a handful of people” indicating they intended to conduct a campaign to destabilize the country and create a climate for political change.
He said it was important to understand that the people responsible for the bombings were a common enemy of all South Africans, Black and White, and would certainly fail in their efforts to intimidate the country’s 44 million people.
The South African Police disarmed two bombs, one of which was set to explode at a petrol station alongside a major road link into Soweto.
Speaking in Parliament on Oct. 30, South African National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi said police had defused one of the bombs after being alerted that two White men were acting suspiciously near the petrol station where a bomb was found.
“We think we know who did this,” Mr. Selebi told Parliament. “We calculate that there are many more bombs than those that have exploded. It’s a policing matter that we have to deal with.”
Railway repair crews were already at the sites of the blast, but were waiting for police to declare them safe before inspecting and repairing the damage.
During the blasts, one woman was killed when a piece of a railway line smashed through the wall of her shack and hit her in her bed. Her husband, who was lying next to her, was seriously injured. He is in critical, but stable, condition in a hospital.
One of the blasts damaged a Muslim mosque in a suburb of Soweto, Dlamini, while another went off at a Buddhist temple in a small town north of Johannesburg.
However, other cabinet ministers are steadfastly refusing to speculate about the political affiliations of those behind the blasts in the immediate aftermath of the explosions.
“Human beings did, no matter their color, no matter their race,” said South African Justice Minister Penuell Maduna.
Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula emphasized that the police had dealt with similar incidents before and was confident that they would find those responsible for the blasts.
About two years ago, the South African coastal city of Cape Town fell victim to an urban terror campaign–allegedly driven by a Muslim fundamentalist group.
After an extensive investigation, the police managed to crack the terror cells behind the campaign, although they have a spotty record of convictions against the alleged terrorists.
Political parties across the spectrum in South Africa have condemned the blasts. The South African White right-wing has become increasingly isolated–even from its own supporters–in recent years.
The ruling African National Congress has often gone out of its way–with notable success–to calm White concerns about majority rule.
And, most White South Africans–whose community comprises about 12 percent of the country’s population–have benefited from South Africa’s booming economy, spurred by the country’s return to the international community in 1994.
Any efforts to destabilize South Africa by right-wingers will threaten their lifestyles and, as a result, most Whites have rather given their political support to minority parties who are part of the country’s political system.
The blasts have had little effect on the South African economy. The country’s currency, the rand, lost 20 cents against the U.S. dollar when the news of the blasts first reached international markets.
But the currency later strengthened to its usual level of about 10 rands to the dollar. South Africa’s stock exchange also remained stable.