It may be 31 years, but the memories of the devastating Magoo’s Bar bombing on the Durban beachfront are still fresh in the minds of those affected by the blast which claimed the lives of three people.
Cassandra Garofallou, who was at the Magoo’s bar that night with four friends, is one of the lucky people to escape unharmed.
“I think we had only been there for about half an hour. We had ordered our first drinks and they had just come when the bomb went off,” she recalled.
The 60kg bomb, planted by MK operative Robert McBride in a car parked outside Magoo’s and the adjacent Why Not Bar, went off just after 9pm on June 14, 1986, killing Angelique Pattenden, Julie van der Linde and Marchelle Gerrard, and injuring 73 people.
At first Garofallou, who unbeknown to her was pregnant, did not think it was a bomb.
“Never in my wildest dream had I thought it would happen. There was a band performing that night and in the 80s you had all the effects like smoke coming out from the stage.
“For a second I thought that it was coming from the small stage in the corner.”
Then a 17-year-old student nurse at St Augustine’s hospital, she was out to have fun.
“Yes, I was 17 and not supposed to be at a bar,” she said, laughing.
On realising that a bomb had gone off, she and the other patrons headed for the exit.
“I was stunned by the calmness, Everyone just went out, there was no rushing or running. I think it was because we had always been told there are normally two bombs.
“I took my bag, got into the car and we left. One girl I was with, Kim, had seen somebody who had been killed.”
Garofallou remembers seeing shattered glass from the building and from all the cars in the vicinity.
She says she still talks about the incident whenever she drives past or hears of a bomb scare.
While saying she understood the anti-apartheid struggle, she does not think the bomb was the way to go. “Especially as there were innocent people there just to have fun.”
Nelson Cele, who has worked at the Parade Hotel since 1979, told how in the days after the blast he and colleagues spent days cleaning up the destruction.
“I have always worked day shift in the linen department and I was not there when the bomb went off.”
He arrived at work the following morning to be confronted by the devastation.
“We were told to go back home as they were still busy with the investigations.
“We only resumed work after two days, and we started by cleaning all the blood from chairs. The carpet in the bar area had to be removed and thrown away,” said Cele, standing outside on the exact spot where the car carrying the bomb had been parked.
The days and even months that followed were characterised by fear, he remembers.
“The then owner of the bar instructed us not to pick up any foreign objects from the floor.
“We were so careful that even when we saw a box of matches, we would not pick it up. When he felt the object was safe he would remove it himself,” said the 70-year-old Cele.
Some first floor and the second floor windows were destroyed, doors torn apart by the blast.
He said while the Magoo’s Bar continued operating, it was not as packed as before the blast.
Journalist Debbie Reynolds was probably saved by a friend’s “wardrobe malfunction issues”. She and a group of friends had planned a night out, the first stop to be Magoo’s.
The bomb went off after they had reached West Street. “I knew it was a bomb. I prayed it wasn’t at Magoo’s”.
McBride was granted amnesty by the TRC for the bombing.