Memorial to murder victims

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Date: 14 July, 2006

Idah Hadebe

Idah Hadebe was shot five times in the 'Trust Feed massacre'. Now PACSA have helped people here to build a memorial chapel to remember the twelve people who died. photo: Christian Aid/Jodi Bieber




Idah Hadebe is in her late sixties and walks slowly with the help of a stick. The five bullets that once tore through her body were removed long ago, but the scars will always remain.

Idah lives in Trust Feed, a poor township near Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. During the apartheid era, this neighbourhood was the scene of brutal political violence, fuelled by underground state security forces.

Tensions ran high between local supporters of opposing political movements, as well as between the community and the government.

Late one night, in December 1988, Idah was visiting a neighbour’s home when armed police stormed the house. They gunned down everyone inside, killing twelve people, including children. Idah was one of just three survivors. She spent the next six months in hospital.

Many in Trust Feed believe that the police shootings were the result of a local tip-off from political rivals. The ensuing whirlwind of grief, anger and accusations only deepened existing divisions between local residents.

In this context of pain and hostility, our partner PACSA (Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness) has been working here in Trust Feed since the 1990s, supporting a slow and gradual process of reconciliation.

In Trust Feed, as in other communities devastated by conflict, reconciliation is not just an end in itself, but a vital step on the path of development.

As PACSA director Daniela Gennrich explains, ‘In communities that have been torn apart as this one has, there can be no way forward until the issues of the past have been resolved.’

PACSA’s activities have included a clean-up campaign to reduce litter, a children’s art event, and a tree-planting ceremony attended by the deputy president of South Africa.

Now, after years working in this divided community, PACSA has helped Trust Feed residents to build a memorial chapel at the site of the massacre. Local people laid the first stones.

Idah approves. ‘It’s here for the next generation to remember,’ she says, ‘It’s important for people to be at peace with each other.’

Now the chapel is built, PACSA is helping people here set up a ‘living memorial’, in the shape of a community centre and meeting place.

Small-scale development projects are already underway, including an adult education scheme, an arts and crafts group and an HIV action group.

With old wounds now healing, people here are finally moving forward. PACSA provided the support they needed to first look back and then move on.