Some widows of the slain anti-apartheid activists known as the Cradock Four have described the official opening of a garden of remembrance for their loved ones as a bitter-sweet moment for their families.

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom officially opened the Cradock Four Heritage Garden of Remembrance in Cradock in the Eastern Cape on Thursday.

It was opened on Human Rights Day in honour of Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlauli. They were killed by apartheid secret police near Bluewater Bay, in Port Elizabeth, after attending a meeting.

The widows of Goniwe and Mhlauli, Nyameka Goniwe and Nolitha Mhlauli, say they have mixed emotions. “It is long overdue, this site has been standing empty for so many years, and we even thought it would never be realised. It is a dream realised instead of being deferred for so many years. We are excited about it not only because it is opening today (Thursday) but what it could be for the community,” says Goniwe.

Mhlauli says, “I remember my dad, my father in law because he is the one that was expected to go down to Port Elizabeth to identify the body. Talking alone, talking to himself saying how can they kill my son so gruesomely.”

Hanekom says the site will serve as a heritage site and a tourist attraction in the small town of Cradock.

“We are not just talking about a site that people will pay or pay for itself but is certainly a site that will bring people to Cradock. To say this is reason to travel to Cradock, so many people will do that. The economic spin of it is that it allows for Guest Houses to be opened and the economic activities follow the reality of being in the tourism map. So that’s the economic benefit. I think a place like this is for our national pride and identity.”

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