Low-key gathering to remember victims of Langa massacre

IN REMEMBRANCE: Nombulelo Mini, who lost her brother Thobekile Mahuwa at the Langa massacre in 1985, lays a wreath at a remembrance ceremony on Saturday
IN REMEMBRANCE: Nombulelo Mini, who lost her brother Thobekile Mahuwa at the Langa massacre in 1985, lays a wreath at a remembrance ceremony on Saturday

It was an intimate memorial with only the families of the victims and survivors of the Langa massacre in attendance at this year’s provincial Human Right’s Day celebrations held in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage on Saturday.

Sports, recreation, arts and culture MEC Fezeka Bayeni said that in order to curb the spread the Covid-19 virus, organisers had adhered to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to limit gatherings to 100 people or less.

Instead, a low key wreath-laying ceremony was held at the Langa Massacre gravesite, situated inside the KwaNobuhle graveyard where most of the deceased are buried.

Initially, Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane was scheduled to address the provincial Human Right’s Day event meant to be held at the Derrick Ferreira Stadium in Rosedale.

The downscaled event was welcomed by the families who said it gave them a chance to really remember and pay respects to their loved ones who perished 35 years ago.

On March 21 1985, on the 25th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre, police opened fire on a crowd gathered on Maduna Road between Uitenhage and KwaLanga township, killing more than 20 people and wounding many others.

They were on their way to a funeral  in KwaNobuhle to bury  a group of ANC activists.

Nombulelo Mini, who lost her brother Thobekile Mahuwa on that day, said for the first time the Langa massacre and the families of the victims and the survivors had been shown that they, too, mattered. 

“If a huge celebration was held here today with hundreds of people in attendance we would have disappeared in the crowd but because only these families were invited we were able to sit down with the MEC and the other officials who were here and really lay down our grievances and share with them feelings of neglect we have and we really want to thank the president for his call,” Mini said.

Bayeni said it was important to commemorate the day to remind people about those who paid the ultimate price of death for the rights and freedoms enjoyed today.

“We should therefore not be reckless and lawless in how we exercise our rights and freedoms; there are responsibilities that we all have and that includes not infringing the rights of others, and we must remind each other that everyone has a right to life,” Bayeni said.

She said the coronavirus had proven to be a blessing in disguise.

“It’s quite emotional and I appreciate it, how the families feel this year’s event was a bit different from other years.

“It was intimate, owing to Covid-19, in that it wasn’t a celebration, but a true commemoration of what heroes and heroines have contributed towards the liberation of this country and that is what these families wanted,”  Bayeni said.

Langa Massacre Foundation chair  Nicholas Malgas said the families were now optimistic that the support they have been longing for from the  government — in terms of education, jobs and housing —  would be provided.