I won't stop crying for my friend - loved one of ANC bus crash victim

2016-04-22 08:36

WATCH: Bus crash victims' families meet ANC leaders

2016-04-19 15:40

Bereaved family members meet ANC leaders at the morgue.WATCH

Johannesburg  Friends and classmates of Sicelo Kheswa held back tears on Thursday when recalling their last memories of him during a memorial service in Vosloorus of 10 ANC members who had died at the weekend following a bus crash.

Dressed in his blue OR Tambo High School uniform, Kheswa's friend Thabo took to the stage and told the hundreds gathered under a large white tent on Thursday afternoon that he was still in shock and could not believe his friend was gone.

"He was a good person who always had a smile on his face. We were always together and whenever he wasn't at school people would notice and ask me where he was.

"When people see me crying they tell me to stop, but my heart is broken. Even if others tell me crying is gay and it's for girls, I don't care I will still cry for my friend," he said.

The programme for the service of the 10 victims. (Photos by Mpho Raborife, News24)

Members of the school's choir sang a soothing melody shortly after his address, with one student struggling to sing through her tears. After wiping her eyes multiple times she eventually sang, lifting her voice higher and higher.

Fighting for a better life

At 20, Kheswa was the youngest of a group described as the 'Ekurhuleni 10' who died after a bus they were travelling in left the N1, overturned and crashed between Winburg and Ventersburg in the Free State on Sunday.

The group included Sphamandla Gedle, Simphiwe Nhlapo, Tisetso Ntsilo, Gugulethe Sithole, Mphikeleli Malindi, Vusi Nkabinde, Daphney Linda, Sesi Mtshali and Sana Sibeko.

They were returning from the ANC manifesto launch held in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

Sixty-year-old Sesi Mtshali was described by her friend as a loving woman who loved seeing her neighbours getting along.

Before Mtshali left, they'd had a fight because she had not got a space on the bus, the woman told the crowd.

The tent where the memorial was held was packed to capacity.

Mtshali had told the woman that she wanted to work all night on the day of the local elections, to ensure a good job was done.

"She said people often fell asleep at the voting stations and she wanted to make sure all the ballots were counted properly," the woman said.

Sphamandla Gedle was described as a respectful young man who was actively involved in his community, including being a member of the Community Policing Forum. His neighbour, who was also friends with Gedle's father, said he hoped other youngsters in the area would emulate him.

"He was constantly working on moving forward, so I encourage the youth to keep fighting for a better life for themselves," the man said.

Stand together

As different representatives took to the stage to speak about the deceased, there was a resounding call for residents to stand together and defend the ruling party.

The tent was filled with voices praising the ruling party and the promise that the upcoming local government elections would be a success for the ANC. Many were dressed in their ANC regalia with some stalls playing struggle songs and selling branded clothes at the entrance of the venue where the service was being held.

A friend of 43-year-old Vusi Nkabinde's told the crowd that they should honour their loved ones by showing up in their numbers at the voting stations on August 3.

A grieving elderly woman in the crowd nodded in agreement and occasionally wiped tears from the corners of her eyes, as the man told the crowd how there was no other party in the country which cared for black South Africans as much as the ANC did. He also called on the crowd to stand up and defend their leader.

A young woman dressed in black with an ANC scarf wrapped around her head told the crowd she had lost a spot in the bus to 27-year-old Simphiwe Nhlapo, but managed to catch the next one.

First time in the ocean

When they arrived in Port Elizabeth, the first thing they did was hit the beach, she said, speaking with resolve and smiling through her words.

"We got to go to the beach when we arrived, it was her first time in the ocean."

On their last day in Port Elizabeth, the young lady said she remembered Nhlapo telling her and others how beautiful they looked before boarding their respective buses and heading home.

Gugulethu Sithole's primary school teacher said she too could not believe that the 33-year-old had passed on.

She recalled meeting her for the first time as a Grade 1 learner.

Some people who were on the same bus stand to sing for their deceased comrades.

"From day one she was a child that made you love her, she loved attention. When she saw me she ran to me with open arms and I held her like my own child.

"When she sent me a message saying she was going to PE, but I was upset, I did not want her to go," she said.

Unity the bedrock

Twenty-six year Tisetso Ntsilo, who also died in the crash, was a well-known firefighter in the neighbourhood. Although he had a quiet personality, he was actively involved in politics, his friend told the crowd.

The two men were originally from the Free State and met when they both joined a municipal programme that trained firefighters.

"I'm shocked that he lost his life in the Free State, where his life began."

After an uplifting gospel performance, which had most people inside the tent on their feet and singing in praise, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told the crowd that the 10 had died as heroes and deserved to be remembered as such.

He also told the crowd that the ruling party needed unity now more ever.

"Unity is the bedrock on which the ANC was built... Comrades, use this occasion to unite the movement. The ANC needs unity today more than any time before.

"This occasion of the death of these cadres must be a reminder to us that when we are united we are better, when we are divided we are vulnerable."

He told Ekurhuleni mayor, Mondli Gungubele, that he hoped the Ekurhuleni 10 would be incorporated into the Chris Hani commemorations which took place every year in the region.

The service was attended by the ANC's senior leaders including members of its national executive committee, ministers as well as leaders of the provincial and regional branches and the SA Communist Party.

Read more on:    anc  |  johannesburg  |  accidents

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