Scars from fateful August 1990 northern areas slaughter run deep

Bettie Hendricks talks about her father, Ruiter Nel, who was killed during the 1990 northern areas uprising in Port Elizabeth
PAINFUL MEMORIES: Bettie Hendricks talks about her father, Ruiter Nel, who was killed during the 1990 northern areas uprising in Port Elizabeth
Image: WERNER HILLS

Whenever Bettie Hendricks sees a police Casspir, she is reminded of August 6 1990, when her father was allegedly thrown from a similar vehicle during the northern areas uprising.

His body was only found days later on the floor of the mortuary in Gelvandale.

Jacksonville resident Hendricks, 56,  describes her late father, Ruiter Nel, as a humble, soft-spoken family man.

The 56-year-old was a welder at a company then called Oddy’s Bodies, but due to failing eyesight was forced to leave his job.

He continued to do odd jobs to earn an income for his wife, Regina, and their seven children.

On August 6, Ruiter left his home in St Martin Street in Bethelsdorp Extension 28 for casual work at his brother’s house in Lodewyk Street, Bloemendal.

“That specific evening he did not return home, but we assumed he spent the night at his brother’s house because of the riots.

“The next day, my mother asked his brother about my father’s whereabouts, but they informed her that he had gone home the previous evening.

“Then we looked for him but could not find him anywhere.”

A phone call to the Bethelsdorp police station followed and the family was informed that a man by the name of Ruiter Nel was there, but no-one was allowed to see him.

On hearing that, they thought he was safe and unharmed.

“The next day all of us were worried and my mom, who suffered from asthma, became sick with worry.

“A woman in the street where we lived told us she had bought the Evening Post and there was a description of my father in the newspaper.

“When we read the Evening Post, we realised it was my father, but the shirt he was wearing only had only one sleeve, he wasn’t wearing pants  and he was only wearing one shoe.

“It was written that the body was found at the Windvogel bus terminus,” an emotional Hendricks, who was 26 at the time, recalled.

The family went to the mortuary at the Gelvandale police station to identify the body.

“The right side of my father’s face, his arm and chest were full of abrasions, and there was a bullet wound in his chest.

“What was really sad was that my father lay on the floor of the mortuary, the sleeve of the shirt was full of blood and his body was already smelling.”

She said her mother became ill and got an asthma attack after receiving confirmation that Nel’s body was in the mortuary.

“What was also sad is that on the day of the funeral we could not have an open coffin or do a prayer because of the flies around the coffin.”

Hendricks says the family’s life drastically changed after her father’s death.

“My two brothers went to look for work in the Swartkops area and lived in the bushes.

“That is where both died.

“I got a job in Jeffreys Bay but returned home after my mother and youngest brother were robbed in the house.

“They had to flee to live with relatives.

“The house was looted and vandalised.”

Hendricks says her mother was never the same after Ruiter’s death.

She died in 2000.

Thirty years on, Hendricks said she felt sad whenever the day of the commemoration drew near because she fondly remembered what type of man her father was.

“I know what a good, quiet man my father was.

“The police murdered him and I always think of how he must have pleaded for his life.

“And there was nobody he could call for help.”

Her eyes filled with tears as she recalled  someone in Gelvandale having told her that her father was thrown from the Casspir.

“Every time I see one of those Casspirs I think that my father was in one of those and that he was begging for his life.

“That is what I think about every time.”

- HeraldLIVE

Whenever Bettie Hendricks sees a police Casspir, she is reminded of August 6 1990, when her father was allegedly thrown from a similar vehicle during the northern areas uprising.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X