Bulhoek Massacre is honoured with song and dance
WHILE the deaths of around 200 worshippers 96 years ago near Komani still serves as a reminder of a painful past, the anniversary was commemorated with song and dance this weekend.
Back then, led by lay preacher and prophet Enoch Mgijima, hundreds of Church of God and Saints of Christ congregants had put their roots down at the foot of a hill in Ntabelanga and resisted all attempts to remove them.
At least 200 were mowed down by hundreds of armed police in 1921, in an event that was later called the Bulhoek Massacre.
Mgijima, who escaped the onslaught, died in 1928 at the age of 60.
But far from the sombre mood that often accompanies such commemorations, the 96th Bulhoek Massacre anniversary was full of colour, music and dancing.
At the site of the massacre, about 30km from Komani, hundreds of congregrants in their church uniforms used the occasion to school other members as well as the nearby community about Mgijima’s “extraordinary” feats despite being under siege from the then white forces.
The event was also attended by the mayor of Enoch Mgijima local municipality, Lindiwe GunuzaNkwentsha.
Evangelist Mavuso Dokoda, who gave a detailed history of the church during the event, later told the Daily Dispatch that the revered prophet would have been greatly disappointed at many happenings today, especially the fact that the majority of the population still did not own land.
“He would reprimand the government for not doing what is required by God for his people,” he said.
“When we speak about land, we talk about the wealth that is derived from the mines, the value of the land to agriculture, its importance to livestock and even the wealth we get from trees.”
Contrary to claims that less than 200 people had been killed during the massacre, Dokoda claimed the numbers were higher than that but they were still trying to collect more information.
He said some of the people who had died came from as far afield as the then-Northern Transvaal and areas like Lusikisiki and Mbizana in the Eastern Cape.
Dokoda said Mgijima had been a vocal opponent of the oppressive regime of his time and had been at the forefront of the fight to acquire land. He had also set up the first irrigation system near Ntabelanga.
He said the church had contemplated submitting a claim for land near the Bullhoek Massacre site that could be used for developmental purposes.
Gunuza-Nkwentsha said they were hoping to turn the site into a thriving tourism centre.
She said while the area of Komani had produced great leaders their descendants had so far failed to capitalise on that.
The mayor also took time to apologise to congregants on behalf of her municipality for tarnishing Mgijima’s name.
She said there had been negative reports about the municipality especially in local media.
“We are doing our best to make sure that you [the church] don’t feel embarrassed for lending us his name to use,” she added. —