October 30, 1998 – A momentous day for South Africa; the publication and release of the final Truth and Reconciliation report took place on this day. At a ceremony in Pretoria, Commission Chairman Desmond Tutu presented President Nelson Mandela with the report; some 3,000 pages bound into five volumes. It was not going to be easy reading for three people in particular; former President P.W. Botha, Winnie Mandela (Nelson Mandela’s former wife) and leader of the South African Inkatha Freedom Party, Mangosuthu Buthelezi. All were implicated in gross violations of human rights. Winnie Mandela was named as an accessory to murder, who allowed her home to be used for assaults and mutilation. A section critical of former President F.W. De Klerk was unceremoniously blacked-out after he took pre-emptive legal action. But the failure earlier this day of a similar suit brought by the ANC left the report sharply critical of the torture which took place in ANC camps outside South Africa. As Nelson Mandela remarked; the report was imperfect, but it was a start.
Meanwhile, a car bomb went off in Gaza earlier this day near a school bus carrying children from a Jewish settlement in the Gaza strip. Two people were killed. An Israeli Army Jeep which forced itself between the bus and the moving car took the brunt of the explosion – one solider was killed, while no one on the bus was seriously hurt and the driver of the car was also killed.
And word that Senator and Astronaut John Glenn was heading back into space at age 77 had many wondering why he decided to go back now, some 36 years after he became the first American Astronaut to orbit the Earth. February 20, 1962, the date John Glenn first blasted off on America’s most ambitious space mission to date; he was to be sent further and faster than any American before him. America had been lagging behind the Russians in the Space Race – they were the first into space and the first to orbit the Earth. Glenn’s five hour orbit had a powerful symbolic value during the Cold War years and he became America’s Greatest Hero. After many years of lobbying to go into space again, he finally got his chance to be up there once again – and this time his mission was different – this time he would be a guinea pig for an experiment on aging. And at 77 he would be the oldest person to be sent up into space. NASA claimed that the main reason for sending Glenn back up was scientific, but critics claimed it was a publicity stunt, designed to rescue NASA from its doldrums and a chance for Americas hero to have one last hurrah.
And that’s just a small slice of the news, happening this day 20 years ago as presented by the BBC World Service program Newshour.