On this day, some eighteen years ago, armed men from a single-sex hostel that housed migrant workers from rural KwaZulu Natal, Kwa Madala Hostel, rampaged through the nearby township of Boipatong in the night, slaughtering 49 local residents.
The armed men arrived in vans, carrying guns, knives and clubs and started killing everyone they could find on the streets. In hearings into what happened that night, some people testified that the men had been transported in Casspirs, sparking allegations that the South African Police had been involved in facilitating the attack.
Aaron Mokoena, Bafana Captain, was 11 years old at the time of the attack and survived because his mother dragged him and his siblings from house to house to avoid the attacks. As rumours emerged that the armed men were planning to return the following day to kill all the young men in the township, Mokoena’s mother dressed her sons in their sisters’ clothes to disguise them.
Local residents of Boipatong have fond memories of Mokoena from his school days at Lebohang High School where he earned a reputation for his tackles. He was spotted by Jomo Sono and became the youngest person ever to play for Bafana Bafana and is presently the most capped member of the squad.
The full truth about the Boipatong Massacre remains unclear. Were the apartheid security complicit in stoking this attack in the familiar pattern of “black-on-black violence” between rival political organisations – ANC and IFP. Who supplied the weapons and the ammunition?
The massacre brought the country to the edge of a precipice, causing the ANC to abandon the negotiations to end apartheid. It took more than a year and another terrible massacre at Bhisho in the Eastern Cape, to force the role players back to the negotiation table.
Boipatong is today hosting a commemorative football tournament, which Mokoena will attend, as his Foundation provides soccer coaching and education to children in his hometown.
Khulumani victims join Aaron Mokoena is stating that they will “Never forget”. Nor will we give up the struggle for reparations, including from those companies that helped to make this massacre happen, to assist them to achieve a more hopeful future.