By Zwelihle Sukati | 2021-05-22
Such had never been witnessed before! Dozens had to be rushed to hospital yesterday after police fired teargas canisters and gunshots at mourners at the memorial service of deceased university student, Thabani Siyabonga Nkomonye. The memorial service was held at St Paul’s sports ground, where throng of people had come to pay their last respect.
What at first started off as a peaceful service, with every other speaker commending how well behaved the youth was during the service, but until the police arrived, all hell broke loose. Seeing the police armoured vehicles making their way through the gate to the sports ground, there was shouting from a section amongst the attendees, demanding that the men in blue make a return as they were not welcome.
It seemed the police had one thing in mind – to hurt and make everyone cry. And that was achieved. Teargas canisters were directly shot where the masses were seated, as they bulldozed their way through the gate in their armoured paramilitary police vehicles. What followed was a stampede as mourners ran in all directions with teary eyes from the teargas.
The police were not fazed even by the wailing of elderly women and children, who had come to attend the memorial service. The elderly and the weak were trodden upon as a result of the stampede, while others collapsed as they suffocated from the teargas smoke. It was like a replay of the South African movie depicting the treatment suffered by black people during the apartheid regime.
The angry youth retaliated with stones. Cars that were parked by the entrance to the sports ground, from where the police were firing shots at first, were left damaged with windows shattered as the angry students fought back.
In a sheer act of force display, the police bulldozed their way into the stadium as they continued firing teargas canisters. At this point, some young women were already injured and crying hysterically and couldn’t breathe. The police gave chase as everyone escaped for dear life. The stadium was filled with white smoke, chairs and tables were left upside down. Seeing that their mission had been achieved, the police from the paramilitary wing, OSSU, withdrew and everyone was left worried sick about the injured and collapsed mourners.
The sounds of crying women echoed throughout the Fairview community, as others thought the collapsed had died. While people were being rushed in different cars to hospital, others came from corners and bushes, where they had sought refuge in search of water or any tap in sight from the nearby houses. Drama All this drama unfolded right before the eyes of Members of Parliament, being Mduduzi Simelane, Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube.
The Siphofaneni MP, Mduduzi Simelane, obviously taking note that the memorial service had been crashed and cannot continue, he took to the microphone to address everyone listening, even those from wherever they were hiding, to evacuate the place and go home. “What we have just witnessed, what the police did, shows that this is not our country,” MP Simelane said.
“I was, a witness to that, police disrupted a peaceful gathering, where people had come to mourn the death of a loved one,” Simelane went on to say. At the time, a handful were gathered around the podium, while others were cursing as they stood at a distance in fear that the police might return and they would take cover.
“This service cannot go on and I therefore plead with everyone to go home,” he begged, before making a short prayer to mark a sad end to what was supposed to be Thabani’s memorial service. However, that was part one. A few moments later, the police returned and this time firing teargas canisters to any visible crowd along the nearby streets. The armoured police vehicles included water tankers.
Some of the officers broke the gate to the sports ground to fire more teargas canisters at anyone on site, while other trigger-happy officers roamed the streets. One woman with children in transit got the shock of her life when a teargas canister was shot at her car, smashing the windscreen and leaving it damaged.
The woman was driving by and she was so traumatised that she jumped from the driver’s seat to the passenger side, where she remained motionless for some time. Trauma She could not even move to the driver’s seat even when the police, after realising the damage and trauma caused to the women and her children, tried to plead with her to drive on. By this, the angry students had burned tyres by the road and were retaliating with pelting stones at the police. The street resembled a warzone.
Thabani’s death follows allegations that he was shot and killed by traffic police officers on Saturday May 8, at around 9pm at Nhlambeni along the Manzini-Nhlangano road. It is alleged that the car he was driving had bullet holes when it was towed by the police and parked at Matsapha Police Station on the same night, while his body was dumped in a valley, while the police claim the deceased died in a car accident.
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