Cape Town Bombers Have No Place to Hide

  • Share
  • Read Later
Cape Town, my hometown, is a little like the pub in "Cheers" -- a place where everybody knows your name. And that may not be a good thing for the people who bombed a locally owned Planet Hollywood restaurant in the city's tourist-oriented Waterfront. Rounding up the usual suspects shouldn't prove too difficult for the police -- when a representative of a group styling itself Muslims Against Global Oppression called a local radio journalist to claim responsibility, the journalist is reported to have potentially recognized the caller's voice. It's that small a town.

Although about 20 percent of Capetonians are Muslim, Islamic fundamentalism has traditionally been limited to a handful of (mostly) student activists. (The city's Muslim clergy, for example, showed no hesitation in condemning the Planet Hollywood bombing.) Fundamentalists were instrumental in creating People Against Gangs and Drugs (PAGAD), a vigilante organization that launched a war on crack dealers -- with pipe bombs as the weapon of choice. (Initial reports suggest a similar device was used in Planet Hollywood.) PAGAD has fought the police too, which is why most of the fundamentalists are well known to local lawmen. As if to make the job of law enforcement even easier, members of the group that claimed responsibility held public demonstrations when President Clinton visited the city earlier this year.

Expect early arrests in this one, and don't be too surprised if the attack even turns out to have some connection with the city's gang-war undercurrents: Despite cloaking itself in the mantle of Islamic fundamentalism, PAGAD has been accused of being influenced by rival drug dealers threatened by the crack trade.

Cape Town has seen worse, and a gentle city surrounded by the natural splendor of a mountain and two oceans isn't particularly prone to panic. Nelson Mandela's ANC was only ever partially successful in mobilizing residents of the notoriously lethargic city to take action against apartheid; Osama bin Laden's chances of turning Cape Town into an epicenter of global jihad are, at best, remote.