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Amid Joy, S. Africans Sadly Recall Victims of Violence : Society: Thousands of blacks and whites died in the 30-year struggle to end apartheid. Their survivors take comfort in knowing that the war is finally over.

May 04, 1994|SCOTT KRAFT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Many of the people who killed, on both sides of the political divide, survived. Some in the ANC will be sitting in Parliament later this week. Others, who worked for the white government, have kept their jobs and their pensions. As De Klerk said in declaring a general amnesty for political crimes a few years ago, the country must learn to "forgive and forget."

"Unfortunately, it's too late for those who lost legs and arms, fathers and mothers," said Ronel Greyling, a criminologist who worked with an organization, now disbanded, called Victims Against Terrorism. "In South Africa, it was always easier to kill someone than negotiate with them."

For the Petersens, the memories are kept by one of the most famous photographs of the anti-apartheid struggle. It shows a limp Hector, still dressed in his school uniform of shorts and jacket, being carried through the streets of Soweto by another sobbing teen-ager.

On that day in 1976, Hector and Antoinette had gone to school only to find the streets filled with pupils protesting the use of Afrikaans, the language of the first white settlers of South Africa, as a medium of instruction in the schools.

When police fired tear gas and let dogs loose on the crowd, the sister and brother hid together behind a house. But when Antoinette turned around, her brother was gone. She saw him later, unconscious and mortally injured.

"I often wonder what would have become of Hector," said his sister, who named her oldest son after him. "He was a shy person, very shy and quiet. I wonder if he would have gotten married by now."

But it helps her to think of Hector as a hero in the liberation struggle. "Maybe if we hadn't demonstrated in 1976, things would still be the same here," she said. "And I think his blood has helped cleanse us of apartheid."

The sharp pain of loss has faded for Peter Younghusband as well. It's something he doesn't like to talk about. But every step South Africa takes toward democracy reminds him of the son he lost.

"It's one of those unfortunate things that each time I read about somebody else's son being killed, I think about it," he said. "It strikes a nerve every time."

Younghusband has always considered the ANC's protest to be justified, "although I haven't always felt good about what they did." The irony, though, was that his son was "totally nonpolitical," the father said. "I used to say to him, 'You should take more interest in what's going on, because it affects you so much.' "

The day he was killed, Michael Younghusband took a national civil engineering exam and then stopped by his office to pick up some papers. The elevator bomb had been intended for a government meeting in the downtown building.

"The tragic thing about it . . . in a building where literally thousands of people work, (was) why him out of all these people?" Peter Younghusband said. "I've always felt he was a victim of a very tragic situation and a vicious system, which thankfully is coming to an end."

The results of Michael Younghusband's exam arrived after the funeral. His score was the highest in the country.

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