Victims of Langa Massacre remembered in Uitenhage

Victims of the “Langa Massacre” have relived their memories, telling stories of how they were ill-treated by the evils of Apartheid atrocities during the celebration of the national Human Rights Day event in Uitenhage recently.

More than 2000 community members packed the Rosedale Sport Field at KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, to mark 30 years since the police opened fire on mourners walking to a funeral in what became known as the Langa Massacre.  

In March 1985, more than 21 people were shot dead - many in the back - when police opened fire on a crowd of funeral-goers on the anniversary of the Sharpeville shootings in Uitenhage's township of Langa. It was the first mass police killing in a year which was marked by other "massacres" in Queenstown, Mamelodi, Winterveld and Alexandra as spiralling unrest turned into bloody conflict.

One survivor, Mr Andale Ngoqo, was shot while going to attend a funeral of the Apartheid activist, unaware that the South African security forces had banned the funeral. He recalled that 25 mourners never made it to the funeral. Mr Ngoqo said the noise of bullets is still vivid on his mind.

“It was very hard back in the days, especially when the 20th of March approached, it was difficult to sleep. I would always have this picture of myself running. Even when I was asleep, I would have flashbacks of the images of myself running for help,” recalled Mr Ngoqo, adding that a noise of the firing of shots is still fresh in his mind. “That memory has lived with me ever since the incident occurred,” said the survivor. 

On 21 March 1960, events were also planned in many parts of the country for people to protest against pass laws. In Sharpeville, Gauteng, thousands of people had gathered at the police station demanding to be arrested. They were met by 300 police heavy workforce who, after a scuffle, opened fire and killing 69 people. 180 more were injured.

Delivering a keynote address on Human Rights Day celebrations, Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Advocate Michael Masutha, MP, reminded the KwaNobuhle community of the sacrifices made by those who died and survived fighting for a free and democratic South Africa.

“A lot more were shot but survived the massacre. We are gathered at this sports field today which is close to the venue of the 1985 massacre. We remember the sacrifices of the people of Sharpeville, the people of Uitenhage, the people of Duncan village and all the people who sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy the fruits of a free and democratic South Africa,” remarked Minister Masutha.

He further highlighted that this year, government is appealing to all citizens to use the Human Rights month as a vehicle to foster social cohesion, nation building, national identity, socio economic development and an end to xenophobia and homophobia.

Minister Masutha further urged community members to go back to the tradition of caring for each other. “We need to root out corruption from our communities and the emerging habit of looting and destroying shops owned by people from other countries,” he appealed.

Minister Masutha also cautioned communities not to loot and destroy any property to vent out their grievances. Commenting on the day, Sara-Lene Van Rayner, a school pupil from Limekhaya Secondary School said; “As much as I am a born free, I can imagine the trauma those victims felt during the shooting. It is very sad how so many people died”.  She said their responsibility, now as youth, is to fight for their rights, respect each other, and not forget that education is the only way to change society.

Ms Noxolo Nyakama of Mandela, Uitenhage said; “We are really proud for our government to hold this significant event in our area because it reminds us of our fallen heroes and heroines who perished during the massacre. This event brings people of different cultures together,” she said.

By Mokgethwa Ngoepe


Published: 24 March 2015