A crescendo of heart-wrenching wails spread across the marquee as the Apostle Bathanwa Kwatsha rendered a moving opening prayer during the mass funeral service of 19 of the 21 young people who tragically perished at a local Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park.
On Wednesday morning, hundreds of mourners, including government officials and traditional leaders, among other dignitaries, descended onto the mass funeral venue, where the official programme is currently under way at an open field in the area.
But inside the marquee, a cloud of sorrow descended when Kwatsha prayed.
“Heal them (families), in the name of Jesus, let them mourn their children, Kusuk’umsindo, kusuk’ukuthi bendimqandile (Let the anger go away, let the ‘I had warned them’ go away’ … death has come, so take away the pain. They made a mistake but we pray to you, Lord, we ask you, Lord, to welcome their spirit, because everyone in here has made a mistake but the problem is when they did death struck. Lord, heal the families and take away the pain.”
A moment of silence turned into a commotion of emotions as sobs turned into wails, almost drowning the prayer.
“Hallelujah, wena unguThixo, wena unguYehova (You are God, you are Jehova),” screams a lady dressed up in black at the back of the congregations, taken over by the emotions that were almost tangible as the 19 coffins stood in front of the podium.
Wet cheeks representing the excruciating pain of having to pay last respects to some of their young classmates can be seen on the faces of young pupils as tears stream down.
“Please understand that as the nation we are hurt by what has happened,” appeals Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane.
“The families had hoped that one day these children would be successful … that these children would one day give their families a better life. The passing of these young people deprives the government of civil servants.”
Mabuyane says, as the provincial government, they will do everything in their power to tighten the laws and ensure that “something like this never happens again.”
Kwatshwa’s prayer was followed by several hymns including Hlaha, oh hlala nami! (Abide, oh abide with me), Litshonil’ ilanga (the sun has set), Ubu-suku bufikile, Nkosi (the night is here, Lord), Mandi, mandingasali, ndingenay’ uMncedi (May I not be left alone with no Helper), Nd’yenzel’, Nd’yenzel’ uncedo ngokuhlala nam’ (Be my Helper and abide with me).
Time and again, speeches by different speakers are interjected by cries from the mourners.
Two families will lay to rest their loved ones in private ceremonies after the official programme today, while the 17 others will be laid to rest between Friday and Sunday.
The funeral is currently underway: