Recalling the Bhisho massacre of September 7 1992, Xolani Tivi said: “We had just arrived and walked into the stadium with [Chris] Hani, when soldiers started shooting at the crowd”.
Tivi, the Umkhonto weSizwe military veterans central region chair on Friday recalled that fateful day, when the Ciskei Defence Force shot dead 28 ANC supporters.
The 56-year-old Tivi was one of the late SA Communist Party leader’s bodyguards.
It was frantic, Tivi said, as people ran in all directions.
“We had just arrived and walked into the stadium with Hani when soldiers started shooting at the crowd.
“We decided to divide ourselves as bodyguards so that the other group could assist the crowd because as the gunshots kept going off, more people were panicking.”
Tivi said more lives would have been lost if they had not intervened and assisted the crowds.
“I was on the side of the people, telling them to take cover and instructing them on stuff like crawling, and also helping those who were shot.
“We managed to control the crowd, and I feel that if we hadn’t acted when we did, more people would have died.
“After we decided to intervene, the crowd began to listen, although they were panicked.”
Tivi recalled being left to control the crowd with late ANC comrade Mazola Msomi.
“During that time the other bodyguards had rushed Hani to the safest place because we had to evacuate him before anything could be done.
“When we went there we had some information that the shooting would happen, but we hadn’t known what to expect,” Tivi said.
Another survivor, Pollsmoor prison warder Lumkile Ndawuni, was just 20 at the time.
He said he wished President Cyril Ramaphosa could recognise the massacre in the same light as the Sharpeville massacre.
“He was there; therefore he too must remember how bad it was that day.
“We were marching peacefully from King William’s Town to the stadium, but soldiers just shot at us when we arrived.
“Shots coming from a helicopter that flew over the stadium killed a lot of people. I ran to the toilets for cover.
“I remember going home wondering how I had survived that gruesome event.”
On Friday, families of the 28 people who died gathered at the Ginsberg Cemetery in remembrance of their loved ones.
Premier Phumulo Masualle, rural development and agrarian reform MEC Xolile Nqatha and sport, recreation arts and culture MEC Bulelwa Tunyiswa were also in attendance to commemorate the massacre.