Executive Mayor of Sedibeng District Municipality, Notshikgolo Mme Busisiwe Modisakeng, Executive Mayor of Lesedi Local Municipality, Mme Lerato Maloka, Executive Mayor of Midvaal Local Municipality, Bongani Baloyi, Municipal Managers, Members of the Mayoral Committees and Councillors, Families of our fallen comrades, survivors and activists of the Zone 7 Night Vigil Massacre, Leaders and members of the ANC and its Alliance Structures, Religious leaders, Leaders of opposition parties, Residents and all distinguished guests
Our freedom was not free. Compatriots were murdered, maimed and their families left destitute and scarred for life in long-running battles against the apartheid regime.
Our democracy was won by great personal sacrifice, a price paid by many citizens of the Vaal and their loved ones, many of whom laid down their lives to lead South Africa to liberation. To live and work in the Vaal is a great privilege; this is where our country’s Constitution was signed into law twenty years ago.
Programme Director, mine is a colossal role of opening the doors of this all-important gathering to all our guests. We are gathered here to once more pay our respects to our fallen comrades – the heroes and heroines whose remains lay before us. The Evaton cemetery is a historic land where many of our beloved citizens, the men and women who laid their lives for our liberation are resting in peace. This cemetery has its name etched in history books and remains one of the Vaal’s most important heritage sites.
There is no doubt that the Vaal is a treasure trove of history, earning its rightful place in our history through the blood that flowed in our streets in pre and post-apartheid violence which claimed countless lives. Today, the Vaal is known around the world as the town that witnessed three bloody massacres that changed the course of our history - the Sebokeng, Sharpeville and Boipatong Massacres.
It was on this day, 26 years ago that our comrades were taken from us in a horrific attack – and every year since that tragedy, we have always gathered to remember those whose blood flowed at that night vigil. We all know that more than 30 of our people were mowed down, killed while attending an all-night vigil held in a tent in Sebokeng Zone 7 where weeping mourners paid final respects to their comrade and community leader, Chris Nangalembe who was a member of the African National Congress (ANC). We all know that Nangalembe died on 5 January 1991 after he was kidnapped by unknown assailants and brutally murdered. His body was later found at a rubbish dump in the nearby township of Boipatong.
While attending the vigil, a gang of armed men suddenly invaded the tent where mourners were gathered. A hand grenade was thrown and exploded while the assailants began shooting randomly into the crowd of mourners, leaving 39 people dead and scores injured. A similar event unfolded Kwa-Madala Hostel in Boipatong, Vaal on 17 June 1992, where 46 residents were massacred on what became known as Boipatong Massacre.
The Boipatong Massacre and other massacres that took place in our region remind us of how rich our area is. We all remember that a month ago we were celebrating 20 years of our revered Constitution. We saw our area being the global focus that the UN declared the 10th December an International Day of Human Rights.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I conclude and welcome you, ours is to remember that our freedom was never free. In order to appreciate those who sacrificed their lives – ours is to heed a call to deepen democracy.
I thank you.