Monday, April 18, 1994
DURBAN—Slowly, Teressa Nxumalo rose to her feet. Eleanor Sidiya was next. And then, around the giant stadium, others began to follow.
“Let all those who’ve lost loved ones to political violence please rise,” the preacher said again. Dozens more people began standing.
The preacher led a prayer, and then others in the crowd of 20,000 put their arms around the bereaved. For today at least, in this city at least, South Africa was peaceful.
The rally was orchestrated by a group of churches. The purpose was to steel the faithful against the winds of civil war building in rural areas surrounding this city in the nation’s most troubled province of Natal. Violence has continued to rise in anticipation of the first all-race elections April 26-28.
“We are at crossroads,” another preacher said about the upcoming national election, “between the smell of death and the aroma of life.”
Teressa Nxumalo stood for her father, stabbed to death by political opponents shortly after the nation’s march toward democracy began four years ago.
“They came disguised as policemen in the middle of the night, and they took him to the place where they kill people,” she said.
Eleanor Sidiya stood for her grandson, shot to death when he stumbled upon a shootout between political enemies. “His name was Welcome,” she said. “He was 14 years old.”
Thousands have died in political violence in this area during the last four years—about 300 in the last three weeks. Everywhere about the city, the mood is apocalyptic.
“We are witnessing the worst human savagery in our history,” another preacher said after the bereaved sat back down. “We are a nation at war with itself. Let us pray.”