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The Waterwitch-Williams Memorial

This article was written by Margaux Bergman

The memorial is dedicated to two of the young heroes who sacrificed their own lives in the struggle for freedom in South Africa. They are Coline Williams and Robert Waterwich, both were twenty years old and members of Umkhonto weSizwe (the underground wing of the ANC). They were politcally active in the areas of Athlone and Bonteheuwel. They died on the 23 July 1989.

Robert Waterwitch and Coline Williams MemorialThey died in a limpet mine explosion which was planned as part of an anti-voter registration campaign in early 1989. At that time Magistrate Courts were being targeted as they were to be used for election nominations on the 24 July 1989, the day after Robert Waterwich and Coline Williams had died.

At the funeral of Waterwitch and Williams, which was attended by 5 000 people, pamphlets were handed out stating that their deaths were unlikely to have been caused by their own carelessness as declared by the police.

Public ToiletsTheir disfigured bodies were found behind the public toilets opposite the Athlone Magistrates Court in the heart of the Athlone Business District. There are rumours that they were trying to remove the mine when it exploded, and others which say that they were tortured to death by the State Police and their lifeless bodies were placed there after the explosion. The circumstances surrounding their deaths remain unclear.

The Memorial SiteIn 2004, the site was marked as a location for potential development. Ron Martin, a Heritage Officer based at the Western Cape Department of Culture and Sport, identified the site as one of great significance in the struggle against oppression due to the limpet mine explosion. He then campaigned to halt the redevelopment with support from officials in the city.

...though we may forgive, let us never forget.

Research conducted at the siteTheir successful campaign led to beautification of the area and statues of the fallen heroes were erected. The statues themselves seem to be cautiously aware of a hidden danger while at the same time giving viewers a sense of their young age at the time they died. This sculpture was created by Guy du Toit in association with Egon Tania, and was unveiled by Executive Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo on the 16 December 2005. This memorial is one of three memorials erected as part of the City's Memory Program. The other memorials are that of the Gugulethu Seven and the Trojan Horse Memorial which were unveiled earlier in the year.


Comments about this Article:

As the story of these heroes are told, we acknowledge the past. Our heritage is for tomorrow and by telling stories like these we keep their memories alive. - Margaux Bergman, Athlone

This is so refereshing to read about our history. Lovely stuff. - Paul, Thornton


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