The telephone call came early that morning. We were to fetch our children from the main hall as soon as possible. Should we be unable to fetch the children, we had to inform the school who would come in our place.
Luckily the school was only ten minutes drive away, it took me five minutes that day. Parents hurried into the school to fetch their children. Some of the younger children were crying as they sensed something was wrong.
Driving back home I noticed army patrol vehicles beginning to block off the entrance to our suburb. Our home was situated about five kilometers from the Independence Stadium on the outskirts of Bhisho. There was a valley at the foot of our garden. We had built a high wall across the bottom of our garden for safety and security reasons.
Mum do you think there will be trouble. Jacquie asked. She had just turned fifteen, the day before.
Who knows what will happen. I replied.
Im scared mummy Mandy, my nine year old said.
Not half as scared as I am I silently thought.
Once home, I secured the property and took the girls inside.
Bhisho was the capital of the Ciskei, a nominally independent homeland (Bantustan) for the Xhosa people in South Africa. The system of racially segregated homelands had been a core of apartheid, but between 1990 and 1994, negotiations were taking place between the government of South Africa and the African National Congress (ANC) to end the apartheid system.
With multi-racial democratic elections as the likely outcome of the negotiations, the ANC wished to organize and mobilize its supporters in the Ciskei, particularly as it lay in the Eastern Cape area, a traditional stronghold for ANC supporters. However, its military leader Brigadier Oupa Gqozo resisted this and prevented the ANC from organizing.
On September 3rd the ANC demanded that President De Klerk replace Gqozo with an interim administration, which would allow free democratic activity in the Ciskei, but De Klerk refused, because the Ciskei did not fall under South Africas jurisdiction.
The reason we were telephoned to fetch the children was that about 80,000 protesters were marching to Bhisho from Kingwilliamstown. The police and security forces requested that shops and schools close for safety reasons.
Ronnie Kastrils led the group singing and chanting. Many other prominent ANC leaders were amongst them. The closer they got to Bhisho the louder they sang. Along the route, they trampled beautiful gardens, to help themselves to water, leaving taps running and homeowners locked behind closed doors. Many with firearms ready to shoot to protect their homes and loved ones.
We had just eaten our lunch when we heard the first shots fired. The sound of screaming sirens followed. We sat in our lounge overlooking the valley, and suddenly we saw people running through the bushes from the direction of the stadium. Army helicopters began to circle the valley, looking for fleeing protesters. I just prayed with the girls the whole time.
My telephone did not stop ringing, as family hearing the news reports, telephoned to inquire about our safety. David was unable to reach home until much later.
When Kasrils and his group realized they would be able to get into the stadium they broke through a hole in the fence. The Ciskei Defence Force opened fire on them. The first fusillade lasted one-and-a-half minutes, the second lasted a minute. Twenty-eight protesters and one soldier died. Hundreds of others were injured.
Ultimately, the massacre led to new negotiations between the ANC and the government. Nelson Mandela met De Klerk on 26 September and signed a Record of Understanding, establishing an independent body to oversee police operations.
Gqozo remained in power in Ciskei but resigned shortly before the elections of 27 April 1994.
We serve an awesome God and I just thank him for his protection over us that day. I love my country and am proudly South African.
What saddens me is the corruption and crime, many friends have died and many have left the country.
Authors note: This is a true account of what we saw happening that day. Some of the historical details are from Wikipedia.org.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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