‘I called him my son’; ‘Her beautiful smile’; ‘His laugh was contagious’: Schools pay tribute to tavern victims

A mass prayer meeting was held on Monday for the families of the victims who died at the East London tavern.
A mass prayer meeting was held on Monday for the families of the victims who died at the East London tavern.

Schoolmates and teachers of the youth who died at the Enyobeni tavern in East London are mourning their losses.

Ricardo Fillis, a teacher at Green Point Secondary School, described Azizipho Zilindile, who he knew since the teenager started grade 8 in 2020, as a child who stood out among his peers.

Fillis said Azizipho, 16, was always neatly dressed and had a sense of humour and great respect for his teachers and fellow pupils.

“I used to call him my son and he used to call me ‘daddy’. He will be dearly missed by his teachers and peers. We thank God for his precious life. It was a pleasure to have known such a gentle spirit. May your soul rest in peace, my son. Until we meet again,” said Fillis.

The school also lost Sandanathi Mahlakahlaka, 15, who was in grade 9. Her classmates shared that they didn’t only lose a fellow pupil but a flower, and said a beautiful flower has bloomed in God’s kingdom.

“Sandanathi was a reserved child who was well-behaved. She did her work without giving problems. Wishing the family peace, comfort, courage and lots of love at this time of sorrow. We hold the family close in our thoughts at this sad time. Sandanathi may be gone but the memories remain, including her beautiful smile. May your soul rest in peace, Sanda,” her classmates said in a collective statement.

Azizipho's classmates wrote a note as the class conveyed their condolences to his family.

“Life did not prepare you to say ‘goodbye’ to your child and you keep asking ‘why’. But there are no answers so we grieve with silent tears looking back on the moments of the past days, months and years,” they said.

“Azizipho was such a warm and loving person to anyone he crossed paths with. He was full of life, always having a smile on his face. He brought endless joy into our lives. Remembering how much we loved him since grade 8. He was our source of happiness. 

“One time we sat in class and he was having a conversation [with friends] and for no reason he started laughing very loud. None of us knew why he was laughing but his laugh was so contagious that all of us burst out laughing,” they said.

The school governing body, principal and pupils at West Bank High in East London expressed their condolences to the family of a pupil who lost his life at the tavern. In a Facebook post, the school said it was mourning the loss of Bongolethu Ncandana.

“Our pupil and classmate is gone and free like a bird. Free to fly in the heavens above as a pupil or friend we will always be thinking of. He is gone from where we can see, but in our hearts is where he will always be.”


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