Zuma's Nkandla party ends in tragedy

2013-12-30 09:16
President Jacob Zuma hands out gifts at his annual Christmas party for the elderly at Nkandla. (GCIS, The Witness)

President Jacob Zuma hands out gifts at his annual Christmas party for the elderly at Nkandla. (GCIS, The Witness)

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Gabisile Ngcobo, The Witness

Pietermaritzburg - President Jacob Zuma’s annual Christmas party for the elderly at Nkandla on Friday ended tragically when a woman died after uninvited guests caused a stampede while clamouring for gifts.

Thembekile Ntombizamani Shangase, 61, was apparently lining up to receive her gift pack when people started pushing and they fell on top of her.

She died at a local clinic at around 18:00.

The president hosts a Christmas party in his hometown at Nkandla every year, distributing food parcels, toiletries, blankets and sweets to the elderly.

The party was held at a hall near his homestead.

It is believed that the crowd got a bit rowdy as everyone was trying to get their Christmas goodies.

Uninvited guests

Social development spokesperson Lumka Oliphant has sent her condolences to Shangase's family members, who she said were very distraught when officials visited them to pay their respects.

“Even though the party is for the elderly, there are those uninvited guests who come and we can’t chase them away. They pushed and fell on top of gogo,” Oliphant added.

“It was such an unfortunate incident after a day that was wonderful,” she said.

Local councillor Sbongiseni Bhengu had already left when the incident took place, but Bhengu maintains that the chaos was triggered by youngsters who were not meant to be at the party.

In 2011, over 2 000 food parcels were given to pensioners in a similar function organised by the president.

Condolences

The presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj in a brief statement on Sunday said Zuma extended his deepest condolences to Shangase’s family.

The statement however made no mention of the nature of the incident.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the family on the passing of their loved one during what was meant to be a joyous occasion for our senior citizens. The minister [of Social Development] has assured me that the matter is being looked into,” the message from the president read.

On Sunday, Zuma attended another party - this time for the children.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said an inquest docket was opened and police are still investigating.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  pietermaritzburg
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