Drag-racing victims buried side by side

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IOL duduza funeral 918 (42161684) THE STAR Nolwazi Mnune and Azavela Sithebe, 4-year-old cousins from Duduza in Ekurhuleni, who were killed when an alleged drag-racer ploughed into them, were buried on Saturday. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha

Johannesburg - Solemn men led the procession, carrying the two small wooden coffins to their freshly dug graves in the Duduza cemetery.

Distraught family members followed closely behind.

Inside the coffins lay the bodies of Nolwazi Mnune and Azavela Sithebe. The two cousins were born within a month of each other, lived for four years by each other’s side, and died together on May 17.

On Saturday, they were buried side by side.

The two died when they were hit by a car while they were playing by the side of the road in the John Dube, Duduza, community in Ekurhuleni.

The driver was believed to have been drag racing – illegal street racing – at the time.

 

Sibusiso Mbatha was allegedly racing and, when another car came towards his, he swerved to avoid it. The two girls were killed instantly.

A mob formed and attacked Mbatha, who died in hospital the following day.

But on Saturday morning, while President Jacob Zuma celebrated his inauguration, the same community that assaulted the driver brought shovels and hymns to mourn the passing of the girls.

“We ask the Lord to welcome the children,” the reverend said.

The coffins were lovingly covered with a blanket and wreaths of flowers. And as they were lowered into the ground, the crowd sang “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, God gave us time and seconds”.

A man’s sobs could be heard above their voices. He sat underneath the tent set up for family members, with his hands clutching his face.

The coffin-bearer knelt in front of the grave, a metal lever spinning slow circles next to his head as the contraption lowered the bodies. Before the pallbearers filled the grave, they carried a shovel, filled with soil, across the long red carpet to the family members. Mothers and relatives, wrapped in blankets, each grabbed a fistful.

And, in a duststorm lasting no more than 20 minutes, the coffins were buried.

The reverend thanked the community for coming, and the taxi association for bringing in hundreds of well-wishers.

With a final “Amen”, the graveyard emptied. Only the cousins’ grandmother remained at the mounds of soil.

She had brought her grandchildren’s favourite cups and plates, carried in grocery bags: a pink set for Nolwazi, and a blue set for Azavela. She laid each lovingly on the graves, and then placed a bottle of water on top of each grave.

“Water – if they want to wake up and drink the water,” she explained.

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