'years of NEGLECT'

BURNING ISSUE: Sharpeville residents burn tyres during protests against poor service delivery last week. PIC: LEN KUMALO. © SOWETAN
BURNING ISSUE: Sharpeville residents burn tyres during protests against poor service delivery last week. PIC: LEN KUMALO. © SOWETAN

SHARPEVILLE on the Vaal is neglected and has not seen development despite its rich history and the involvement of its residents in the fight against apartheid.

SHARPEVILLE on the Vaal is neglected and has not seen development despite its rich history and the involvement of its residents in the fight against apartheid.

With roads littered with stones and burnt tyres, it is hard to believe that it's the same area where former president Nelson Mandela signed the country's new Constitution in 1996.

Survivors of the Sharpeville massacre feel left out in the commemoration events and accuse people of making money out of their story while they remain poor.

Michael Tekiso, 70, said the area has not seen development since the end of apartheid.

"There is no development in the area. We do not have a community hall. It was destroyed in the 1980s and they have been promising to fix it," Tekiso said.

He said even the tarred road was organised by residents.

"The community worked for free but when the government took over the project it became a mess," Tekiso said.

He said the Sharpeville Monument was neglected and was only cleaned days before the commemoration.

Tekiso remembers the fateful day only too well and how he escaped being "sprayed by the bullets".

"We had just moved away from where we were standing when the shooting started," he said.

He said he ran to his girlfriend's home, which was close to the police station, and waited for the gunfire to stop.

"When we came out it was terrible. I had never seen anything like that in my life," he sobbed.

Tekiso said bodies were lying dead on the streets and police used blankets as stretchers to load them into the vans.

He said that police kept poking the dead with swords mounted on rifles, urging them to "say Izwe lethu again".

For Johannes Sefatsa, who was 19 then, March 21 1960 is the day he wishes to forget.

"I lost a brother. After the shooting someone told me that he had seen my brother fall," he said.

Sefatsa said he went back to the scene and found his brother, Samuel, lying face down near the police station.

"He was shot in the back. People tried to assure me that he was OK but I could see he was dead."

He removed his brother's watch and when the police took the body he ran home to tell his parents.

"What hurts me is that I was the last person in the family to see his body because on the day of the funeral we were not allowed to open the coffin," he said.

Sefatsa said when he visits his brother's grave he wonders if that was really him in the coffin or if he was in the next one.

He echoed Tekiso's sentiments that the area was not developed.

"Things are very slow here, it's just promises," Sefatsa said.

He said in areas such as Soweto, they have Vilakazi Street - world famous for having Nobel laureates Mandela and Desmond Tutu's houses and the Hector Pieterson Memorial.

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