On Wednesday, March 5, 70 000 people from all over South Africa met at the Alexandra Soccer Stadium. They came to bury 17 people who were killed in a bloody, four-day street-battle.
These 17 people were only some of the people killed in Alex. Police say that 33 people died in the last two weeks of February. But the people of Alexandra say many more people died. They say more than a hundred people are missing from their homes.
Learn and Teach spoke to a friend who lives in Alex. Our friend wrote this story for us.
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 15
“The shooting started after the funeral of nineteen year old Michael Dirading on February 15. A security gaurd in a shop in Wynberg shot him. 13 000 people went to Michael’s funeral. I was one of them.
“We were washing our hands at his home when the police arrived.
The police fired tearsmoke at us from their ‘hippo’. Everyone ran to get away from the tearsmoke. Then the police started going from yard to yard. And the young people got ready to fight the police — first with stones and bricks, later with petrol bombs.
“By 4 o’clock Alexandra was a place at war. You heard endless gun shots. Above Alex there was a heavy cloud of smoke from burning cars. A Form 1 pupil at Minerva High School, Nono Lucy Ledwaba (14), of 3rd Avenue was shot dead in front of her parents’ home. Her death was just the begining.
“I was trapped in a room with about 20 other people. Suddenly we were choking on tearsmoke. A 9-nine-year-old child with us fainted. We gave the child water and lit paper to get rid of the tearsmoke.
ON MY WAY HOME
“Then I left. I wanted to get home. I was worried about my family. I jumped over the corrugated iron fence at the back of the house and I headed for home. As I crossed an open field, I saw a group of boys, kneeling close together.
I stopped to tell them there was trouble. But when I saw what they were doing I wished that I hadn’t stopped. The boys wore doeks with handerkerchiefs over their faces. They were making petrol bombs. I left as fast as possible.
“I looked behind me. A group of policemen were coming. Suddenly some more boys, also wearing doeks and handkerchiefs, started throwing stones at them. In the end the policemen gave up and went back to their big “khwela-khwela truck.
“I kept on walking till I came around a corner. I saw two policemen with rifles coming towards me. So I went into the closest house. The house stank of tearsmoke and sweat. There were about forty youths packed into the room.
Three youths were lying on the floor, groaning in pain while another boy “operated” on them. He used a pen knife and nail clippers to cut the flesh. He was taking either buckshot or bullets, out of the boy’s leg.
On 2nd, 3rd, 4th Avenues, I saw liquor running like water. Some boys broke into the bottlestore in 2nd Ave. Pensioners joined in. They forgot their troubles as they drank the free booze. But the youths didn’t drink. They smashed liquor bottles for more than half an hour.
MONDAY FEBRUARY 16
On Monday the youths stopped people from going to work. I was at 14th Avenue. People were standing in their yards. They did not know what to do — stay at home or go to work. Suddenly there were some gunshots. MeisieTshabalala fell. She was bleeding from her head.
Some Alexandra council policemen drove up to look. But soon they were off in their van again. Then the streets of Alexandra turned into the ‘killing fields’ of our times. Blood ran freely. Many people were wounded in the legs and body. First Aid teams moved about, helping where they could.
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 17
Tuesday morning started with a meeting at corner 12th Avenue and Hofmeyer Road. More than 300 youths were there. A helicopter passed above and soon police arrived in a mellow-yellow. The youths ran away.
The police followed. By 8 o’clock three youths lay dead on the ground — and more than four boys were badly hurt. Then Bishop Ananias Maredi, of the Miracle Apostolic Church of South Africa, stepped in.
Bishop Maredi organised a meeting at the local soccer stadium. Parents and children came. Bishop Tutu was also there. Bishop Tutu asked the police to leave the children in peace. And he asked the children to let their parents go to work.
Bishop Tutu said the children must stop burning so-called ‘impimpi’s’. He said, “One day we will be ashamed to read our history books.” After the meeting, people went home and began to count the dead.
BURYING THE DEAD
On Wednesday, March 5, the people of Alex came together to bury the dead. They were joined by thousands of people from all over the country — and from all over the world.
Under the cruel sun the people of Alex listened to their leaders. The 17 coffins lay on a green carpet — guarded by young men in khaki uniforms. The coffins were wrapped in the colours of the African National Congress.
Then the coffins were lifted shoulder high and carried to the cemetry. The dead were put to rest.
Then we slowly made our way home. Our hearts were heavy. We had just buried our children — and we knew there would be more.
But in our sadness we felt strong too. We knew that our struggle does not stop here. It goes on. That is what our dead children would have wanted. We must make sure that they did not die for nothing.
Hambani kahle sons and daughters of Alex.