“They Died Horribly”: Celebrating the Lives Lost During the Student Uprising and Beyond

  • Dawne Y. Curry


Sitting back in her worn leather chair, retired domestic laborer Mrs. M. L. Mbatha proclaimed, “when apartheid interfered with funerals, we … found … other ways to grieve, [because] we couldn’t always express our sorrow at funerals or … nourish our spirit with songs.”1 This mother of four had lost her youngest son when he was just 13. Suffering from gunshot wounds to the chest, he died in her arms. Although the two shared his last earthly moments together in a heartfelt embrace, Mbatha faced the daunting task of reconciling her loss. Mbatha availed herself of what many Alexandrans did at a time when they could not honor the deceased with a public funeral: she shared the tragedy with other bereaved parents. She states, “I talked and talked. I talked to friends and I talked to you [(the author)] each time the pain lessens.”2 Heart wrenching as this story is, Mbatha recounted it several times, subtracting and adding embellishments where she saw fit. One recurring theme was Mbatha’s belief that to express grief meant to defy apartheid. As tears welled up in her eyes, she exclaims, “they controlled our funerals and they disturbed us. All we wanted to do was to bury our children properly.”3


Gunshot Wound Network Account Bereave Parent Apartheid Regime Beer Hall 
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© Dawne Y. Curry 2012

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  • Dawne Y. Curry

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