South Africa


Darkness and despair in the Soweto informal settlement hit by tavern massacre

Darkness and despair in the Soweto informal settlement hit by tavern massacre
A mourner is comforted during the memorial service on 14 July 2022, held metres from Mdlalose Tavern in Nomzamo Park, Soweto where 16 people died in a shooting early on Sunday morning. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Community leaders and activists described a hopeless battle for basic services such as electricity and ablution facilities.

The Nomzamo Park informal settlement, where 16 people were killed in a mass shooting at a tavern last Sunday, has been fighting a losing battle to get basic services for many years.

soweto tavern massacre faith mazibuko

Gauteng community safety MEC Faith Mazibuko (centre of frame wearing a mask) during the Nomzamo Park memorial service on 14 July. The service, hosted by the ANC, was criticised for turning the memorial service into a political affair. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Residents who spoke to Daily Maverick on the day of the murders said most people who live in Nomzamo Park, including non-drinkers, frequent the tavern to watch television as many have no electricity and the tavern has a generator. 

“It could have been anyone [who got killed],” Sihle Nyanga said.

tavern massacre nomzamo park

Mourners during the Nomzamo Park memorial service, metres from the Mdlalose Tavern where 16 people died in the early hours of Sunday morning. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

During Daily Maverick’s visit to Nomzamo Park in October 2021, community leaders and activists described a hopeless battle for basic services such as electricity and ablution facilities.  

Residents said that fewer than 100 of the about 485 houses in the area had an electricity connection.

Community members say that nothing much has changed since then, and if anything, the situation had become worse.

tavern massacre eff

Men hold up EFF flags outside the memorial service for the Nomzamo Park tavern massacre victims, hosted by the ANC. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

“More transformers broke down and those with electricity constantly endure long and random power cuts,” Smangele Mgebe said.

“Imagine an area like Nomzamo, which is beset by crime, without power. We are at the mercy of robbers and authorities care less because animals live here,” said Madoda Sukazi, a Nomzamo Park resident.

“Nothing has changed in Nomzamo. Even if you went away for a decade, you are guaranteed to easily find your way back here because you can be sure there will be no improvement.”

The area also lacks mobile toilets and sufficient clean water.

tavern massacre paramedic

A paramedic on standby at the Nomzamo Park tavern massacre memorial service on 14 July 2022. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

“The toilet situation is also still the same. We have to take turns just as we did before,” said Nomzamo Park community activist Wandile Rafuza. 

“No, my brother, nothing has changed here. Crime has worsened and there is still no police visibility. There isn’t the slightest difference since the last time you guys were here in October… crime has worsened. You want to be indoors by 7pm,” he said.

On Thursday, the community of Nomzamo gathered at a moving memorial service for the 16 people shot dead, in a tent not far from the tavern where the mass shooting occurred. One of the grieving families  had earlier performed a ritual near the tavern to take home the spirit of the deceased for burial in KwaZulu-Natal.

massacre service victim

A family member speaks at the service while holding a framed photo of a victim killed in Sunday’s mass shooting in Nomzamo Park, Soweto. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Community members said many houses in Nomzamo had no power and that this has been going on for years while many of the residents who live in shacks rely on illegal connections.

President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the area after a dispute which stemmed from the irregular distribution of electricity. Within 20 days of Ramaphosa and Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s visit, Eskom restored some transformers that had been shut down about three years ago due to the dispute.

About two weeks ago, the community of Soweto marched to the mayoral office calling for an end to random and continual power cuts.

Johannesburg mayoral spokesperson Mabine Seabe said: “On the issue of electricity, I’m cautious to give you feedback on that issue because we still have to give feedback to the Soweto community following their march to the mayoral offices.

“In terms of the toilet situation in Nomzamo, I don’t have the full service delivery plan,” Seabe said, adding that the city would develop 10 informal settlements this year and Nomzamo might be one of them.

Said Rafuza: “Nothing has changed here and we have run out of options who to turn to because no one is willing to listen. Eskom is playing hide and seek despite the new councillor’s positive efforts.” DM


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