Forgiveness, reconciliation and healing were in the air on Friday as hundreds of Athlone students, teachers and activists marched the same road where three youngsters were shot dead by police in 1985. Two police officers were among those who laid colourful wreathes at the site in Thornton Road to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Trojan Horse Massacre.
On October 15 that year, a truck loaded with crates drove down the road, while police hid inside. They then sprang up and opened fire, killing three youngsters and injuring several others. Those who died were Jonathan Claasen, 21, Shaun Magmoed, 15 and 11-year-old Michael Miranda. The entire incident was filmed by a CBS crew.
Pupils in the area worked together under the Athlone Students Action Committee (Asac) banner at the time to demand an end to the State of Emergency and to protest against apartheid education.
On Friday morning, a large crowd gathered at the nearby Belgravia High School to commemorate that time.
In attendance were relatives of the deceased and former staff and pupils.
Attorney Peter Williams, who attended the school and was a founding member of Asac, said Athlone had played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle.
He shared with the current pupils, fresh faced and in neat uniforms, how they had to contend with teargas, rubber bullets and even live ammunition.
“It is to teach the youth of today what had happened. It is to tell the youth that your freedom did not come cheaply,” he said to nods.
“People paid with their lives.”
Toyer Arnold, a former principal who taught at the school for 42 years, wiped away tears as he recalled the young local leaders who emerged in the 1980s.”
“Hulle het diep spore getrap” [They made their mark].
“We fought to give you, our young students a better future,” he said to resounding applause.
While some referred to the time as a school boycott, University of Western Cape history professor Premesh Lalu said it was nothing like that.
Also a former Belgravia student, he argued that students had rallied to to build another vision of society.
“It was not a study versus revolt. I think the students were engaged in a study in revolt.”
The movement was guided by a deep sense of ethics, political sensibility and an understanding of why education and the intellect were important.
Lalu said it was everyone’s obligation today to think of ways out of the legacies of apartheid.[Source: News24]