‘Our lives never same again’

BITTER TIMES: Scenes from Port Elizabeth's Northern Areas Uprising in August 1990
BITTER TIMES: Scenes from Port Elizabeth’s Northern Areas Uprising in August 1990

FOR those who lost loved ones during the August 1990 Northern Areas Uprising, today holds bitter memories. Though some who died in the riots, which started on August 6 1990 and claimed 59 lives, took part in the events, others – many of them children and youths – were caught in the crossfire.

One of the youngest who died was two-year-old Gwendoline Malgas of Helenvale, who was shot in the head through the window of her Pienaar Street home on August 7.

“I remember running into our house as we heard that the gomas [armed police vehicles] were coming our way,” Gwendoline’s brother, Marlon Malgas, 33, said.

“My sister held Babatjie – as we called her – on her hip. We peeped through the window to see what was happening. Just after I told my sister to move out of the way, a bullet came flying through our window. I turned around and saw blood and brain tissue on the floor. I asked my sister if she was shot and she said no. I looked at Babatjie and noticed the hole in her head and blood squirting.

“Our lives have never been the same again,” he said.

Shireen Seale-Mentoor, 48, of Gelvandale, mourns her husband Christopher Seale who was killed in Highfield Road, Schauderville, on August 10.

“He was on his way to work that evening. He was on the night shift at Shatterprufe and waited for his transport at his brother’s house when armed police shot at him.

“When his sister phoned to tell me what had happened, I was beside myself. We were newly married, with three children of whom the youngest, Leroy, was only six months old.”

Mentoor said Seale died in Livingstone Hospital.

“My breadwinner was taken away and I was left to fend for myself. I pursued a court case against the police for murdering my husband, but all the judge said was that my husband was at the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s it. I swore that day I would never ask anyone for a thing and work my fingers to the bone to provide for my three children,” she said.

For Gayle Solo- mon, 68, who lost her son, Elliot Bloemetjie, the worst is to carry on and pretend that it is okay.

“The pain of losing one’s child – especially in such a manner – words cannot explain. He was in Arcadia at his girlfriend’s house when the chaos erupted. She was pregnant at the time.

“He called me that evening of August 10 to say he wouldn’t be home because there were no taxis. The next morning I got the news that Elliot was dead. He was shot trying to see what the commotion was about.

“I hope something as brutal and terrifying will never, ever happen again,” Solomon said. – Alvené du Plessis

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