Activists murdered, an old woman cries out and the people mourn

2011-12-12 00:00

EARLY one Saturday morning I was phoned by Pauline Stanford, one of the trade union officials, to tell me not to come to the Mpophomeni Co-op because three activists had been murdered the night before. I had worked closely with them and the rest of the community. I went with Pierre Cronjé, then a Progressive Federal Party (PFP) member of Parliament, whom activists frequently consulted for the power he still possessed among the police and soldiers. He and I arrived early, at about 6.30 am. By doing this we avoided the road block which would see Archbishop Dennis Hurley ordered out of his car and have the police quite literally strip it in search of, one presumes, guns or bombs.

When we entered Mpophomeni we were met by troops of soldiers, all fully armed, as well as the army. People were slowly making their way to the Catholic Church. As I watched people going to the church I saw a young, blond police officer with a dog that he was using to terrify the people. An old woman walked past, a shawl around her, Bible in her hands. The police officer set his dog on her, not to bite, but in sheer contempt. The old woman cried out and fell, the police officer laughed and my heart broke. I still wonder if he ever thinks of what he did, and what he would think if someone did that to his Ouma.

The funeral was excruciatingly cruel, with no respect for the people in mourning. Worst of all, the police had decided to release the bodies one at a time, so when the first body was buried, the next would leave Edendale and travel the 40 kilometres to Mpophomeni. It was a stinkingly hot day, but this gave the forces even more power to exacerbate the cruelty. No one was allowed outside the hall, which was filled to capacity, with many people standing. They refused to allow water to be brought in, and if anyone went to one of the two lavatories, which were soon overflowing, a police officer accompanied them and forced the women to leave the door open. The wait for the coffins was interminable, with the last one arriving at 4.30 pm. The police were in radio contact with the mortuary van and were constantly telling the drivers not to hurry.

They made a braai near the church and ate in front of the people, including children who were hungry and frightened. They taunted the elderly women and insulted the men using every obscene word one could think of. As we left at 6 pm our hearts were in our throats, broken, both by the murder of our three comrades and the way in which the mourners were being abused. We knew we would face a roadblock, but we were not sure what the forces would do to those dignified people of Mpophomeni. The only people who were at peace were the three dead trade unionists.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.