(This is an extract from my upcoming book about working on the mines during the South African struggle.)
“Mama ….. Mamie … Ma…”
I covered him with a blanket. Then he died.
Still young, his innocence and lack of survival instinct had left him sleeping in his room, where the killers found him. In keeping with custom, he was stabbed and sliced by all his attackers, in order to bind their silence by joint guilty involvement.
His arm hanging by shreds of skin, he was left to bleed to death; his killers slinking away at our approach. We were just in time to hear him die. I wished afterwards that I had knelt and pronounced words of absolution – many Sothos were Catholics.
Ghostly groups of hunter killers slipped away through the early dawn mist and tear gas remnants. We called for an ambulance.
The ambulances were busy – 14 men had died in this senseless, hateless violence which set workmates at each other’s throats because sides had to be chosen. Many were injured in these crude, clumsy clashes with iron bars and bricks from torn down walls as weapons.
Amongst the casualties, who didn’t die, broken ankles were the main injury, sustained leaping out high windows to escape the hunter killers who slunk through the night seeking victims … anyone from the other side.
Most bodies were mutilated with multiple wounds, many clearly in sleeping attire, some still in their rooms.
As it became lighter, two factions formed, kept apart by armoured security vehicles and a SA Police unit with a mounted machine gun. 3000 men lined up facing each other about 50 metres apart.
They were divided along ethnic lines, those who teta – spoke with clicks, mostly Xhosa, armed with sabres and iron bar spears, facing the rest, predominantly Sotho, with some Shangaan, Swazi and Tswana, wrapped in blankets, mainly armed with cudgels and bricks. Trees in the hostel had been stripped of branches and a 12 foot brick wall had been knocked down and the bricks taken for weapons.
2 thoughts on “Slaughter in the night”
Hi Noo , Will talk with you about this when I see you next weekend – it is so graphic, shocking, appalling; having to witness, be present, during these times must have left its mark. Usually one chooses, for whatever reason, what one wants to read – I was totally unprepared for this on this lovely Spring morning in my home and feel assaulted , bruised and deeply miserable It was easier to gloss over those times & events as ‘their faction fighting’ , but it continues, both here and in all corners of our so-called civilised world.
Last night I had a dream about a marauding Tiger invading my house – I managed to shove him out the door, only to realise that an even greater horror and threat was squeezing through it – a Gorilla whose head was as big as half the door and I heard a voice saying Chimpanzees are the most savage, cruel and organised of all the species, except for one other … Man. I had been watching a Nature programme on BBC TV before going to bed
A bit of a pompous response , and just between you and me, but one cannot just say nothing – as many of us did …..
I hope you are having a lovely time – see you soooon
I look forward to reading this book like I did the previous two. Always a pleasure Mal.