34th commemoration of the 1985 massacre

Members of the African National Congress and Komani locals gathered at the Nonzwakazi Methodist Church of Southern Africa circuit 302 last weekend to commemorate fallen struggle heroes who lost their lives in police action during the 1985 consumer boycott .

Saturday marked 35 years since the death of 12 ANC members who were victims of a police shootout following a reported consumer boycott meeting held by the members at the church on November 17, 1985.

Ndoyisile Bhebheza, 25, Fikile Dastile, 15, Tamsanqa Kamati, 54, James Myendeki, 54, Zandisile Ndabambi, 24, Zilindile Ndlovu, 19, Lizo Ngcana, 61, Luvuyo Sixishe, 18, Mkhulili Songelwa, 15, Mlungisi Qofu, 27 and Toto Billy, 25, were the victims of the unrest. A wreath-laying ceremony led by ANC provincial executive committee and member of parliament Mncedisi Nontsele and national executive committee member Thozama Mantashe took place at the Mlungisi cemetery before proceeding to the church. A tombstone was unveiled for the late Luthando Plaatjies, 18, who was also one of the victims and succumbed to his injuries the following year.

Speaking at the event, survivor of the massacre Monde Tingwe said following the infliction of severe pain by police at the time, he was charged with three counts of murder and was sent to death row in Pretoria Central Prison. Tingwe said he had requested his case be re-opened, indicating that he was later transferred to West Bank in East London where he applied for indemnity. He later spent four months in prison.

Mantashe expressed gratitude to the families and emphasised that the death of the struggle heroes was not in vain. “We had previously promised to establish a trust fund to assist the victims’ families. We are here to say we have not forgotten. The fight against corruption is one of the major priorities for government and we are appealing to the families not to lose hope.

Some of the family members pleaded for at least one person from each family to be provided with employment. I will work together with the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality speaker, Bongiwe van Heerden, to see that this happens. I also encourage the formation of a cooperative for sewing in this area (Mlungisi) to help curb unemployment and I promise to assist by providing someone to offer training for the cooperative,” said Mantashe.

Queenstown massacre liaison officer, Material Matshoba, who spoke on behalf of the families said early this year, the directorate of museums and the department of sport, recreation, arts and culture had hosted a provincial summit attended by massacre committees and other stakeholders in King William’s Town. “The aim of the summit was to empower massacre victims with critical knowledge and skills to establish and register non-profit organisations to enable massacre committees to mobilise financial and material resources from public and private funding agencies to support community-based projects.”

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