Mbeki, Buthelezi unveil Thokoza memorial

Time of article published Oct 16, 1999

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The floor of the structure that houses the Thokoza monument was covered with flowers and wreaths on Saturday morning by survivors of the political violence that engulfed the area in the early 1990s.

Moments before, in a gesture steeped with symbolism, African National Congress president Thabo Mbeki and Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi had opened a velvet curtain to officially unveil the monument, a large granite slab bearing the names of 688 people who died or went missing as a result of the bloody conflict in the area.

Despite the formality of Saturday morning's ceremony, many of those who brought flowers - the family members of victims, and survivors of the violence - broke down and had to be assisted to walk.

Members of the crowd of mourners, most of whom were elderly women, sported party political colours, signalling the new era in Thokoza where people are no longer divided along political lines.

Prior to the unveiling, Mbeki and Buthelezi officially opened Buthelezi's Street, the street that since 1991 has literally divided Thokoza into ANC and IFP camps.

Thokoza and other eastern townships like Katlehong and Vosloorus have been plagued by bloody conflict since the mid-1980s.

The violence picked up between 1991 and 1994, with the alleged involvement of a "third force" - the police and army of the then apartheid government.

Three thousand people died on the East Rand in the run-up to South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994.

Mbeki and Buthelezi will address a crowd of 20 000 people at the Thokoza stadium later on Saturday afternoon. - Sapa

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