Botha Unrepentant on Church Bombing

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CAPE TOWN: Church bombing isnt necessarily a human rights violation, former South African president P.W. Botha told a court hearing today. Bothas contempt-of-court trial heard evidence that the octogenarian hardliner had ordered the August 1988 bombing of the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches, in which 21 people were injured. Botha is unfazed by the charges: Hes never denied ordering the bombing, says TIME Johannesburg bureau chief Peter Hawthorne. Hes never admitted it either. In his own inimitable way, hes saying he did it because the building was the headquarters of a subversive organization.

Botha is facing contempt charges over his refusal to testify before the commission, but Hawthorne believes the ex-president is unlikely to be punished: In the end hell probably get away with it because the commission doesnt want to be seen to be hounding a dinosaur of the old regime. In other words, theyll opt to let not-yet-sleeping dinosaurs lie.