skierlik remembers the victims of a massacre
The community of Skierlik near Swartruggens gathered at a nearby cemetery yesterday to unveil tombstones in commemoration of the victims of teenage mass murderer Johan Nell.
Present were North West Premier Edna Molewa, MP Patrick Chauke, Provincial and Local Government Minister Sicelo Shiceka, and representatives from the Lesotho High Commission and different political parties.
The white residents of Swartruggens were not present.
"They were invited. This is not the first time that they are absent from such programmes. It happens all the time," Molewa said.
Four people, including a three-month-old baby, were killed by the rifle-toting Nel in a racially-motivated shooting spree in the settlement last January.
Nel is now serving four life sentences for the murders.
The unveiled tombstones were for Enoch Tshepo Motshelanoka, 10, Anna Moiphitlhi, 31, her three-month-old baby Elizabeth Moiphitlhi, and Sivuyile Banani, 35.
They were the first blacks to be buried at the Swartruggens cemetery. The local government plans to develop the site into a tourist attraction.
"We want tourists to come and learn more about Skierlik, Swartruggens and Kgetleng municipality as a whole," Chauke said.
A local priest said: "These people lying here came to Swartruggens because they did not have any food or shelter. Nel did not care about that.
"But we will show the likes of Nel that we are not going to do the same. Instead we will give them shelter and food."
Emily Moiphitlhi, who lost a daughter and granddaughter on that fateful day, said she was satisfied with Nel's conviction.
"We want to thank the government for doing this.
"We are trying to get on with our lives but it is not easy," said Moiphitlhi.
Nkele Motshelanoka, mother of Tshepo who was gunned down while playing in their yard, said it would help if the government removed them from Skierlik.
"Life goes on but we still fear that white people from around here might retaliate.
"My wish is to live as far away from Skierlik as possible. I do not feel comfortable around here anymore,' she said.
Molewa said her government was busy implementing a social integration programme to restore human rights and address the injustices of the past in Skierlik.