Anniversary of 1990 northern areas riots commemorated

Family members and municipal officials lay wreaths at a commemorative ceremony in the Papenkuil cemetery for the people who died during the 1990 northern areas uprising. Maria de Bruyn lays a wreath for her brother, Thomas Costello, who was killed
Family members and municipal officials lay wreaths at a commemorative ceremony in the Papenkuil cemetery for the people who died during the 1990 northern areas uprising. Maria de Bruyn lays a wreath for her brother, Thomas Costello, who was killed
Image: Werner Hills

Port Elizabeth's northern areas must be put back onto the national agenda.

This was the powerful and well-received call by DA councillor Rano Kayser who last night addressed a large gathering assembled at Dower College in West End.

Kayser, along with dignitaries including community leaders and Eastern Cape MPL Christian Martin, was present at the 28th anniversary of the 1990 northern areas riots which ended with nearly 50 people killed and hundreds injured.

The riots – in the wake of the event they have referred to as an "uprising" – broke out on August 6 1990 and saw days of clashes with security forces and the looting and burning of dozens of shops and businesses.

Kayser said the uprising was a community action, not party political, and involved people from all walks of life.

Referring to a long list of protests and marches in the country, including the 1976 Soweto uprising, Kayser asked why the northern areas event did not enjoy the same recognition as those others.

"It was a massacre. Why is there no public holiday or national recognition of what took place here?

"Why is there no August 6 like there is a June 16?"

"We must claim our space in society. It is time we set the agenda and claimed that space [August 6]."

Former activist and city councillor Eldridge Jerry, now a Mandela Bay Development Agency employee, recalled the events of August 6, saying they should be seen as an uprising rather than riots.

"There was already a national agenda ... to make the country ungovernable.

"The people were sick and tired of being abused. They were fed up with the Labour Party.

He said that a similar uprising should be prevented.

"It is all about the proximity of leaders to their communities," he said.

"Let us learn from the events of 1990."

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