June 17 2011
Music blared inside, violent anger flared outside. It could have been the Ellis Park tragedy all over again as people stampeded outside the stadium and forced their way through the fences because of poor crowd control at the official Youth Day commemoration at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Thursday.
While children danced inside the stadium to Afrikaans singers, hip hop songs and kwaito groups, outside, other youngsters broke down the steel fencing to get in and had mace sprayed in their faces, and were kicked by security guards in order to restore order.
The day started with good cheer.
It was a historic moment when thousands in the stands stood and cheered to Loslappie while people were waiting for President Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema to arrive. He pitched up more than three-and-a-half hours late.
But even before he arrived, the good vibes didn’t last long.
At about 1pm, organisers decided that the stadium was full, and closed the gates. Outside, thousands of children with their yellow tickets still wanted to get in. The longer they were denied entry, the angrier they became. They started to shake the steel gates. Two policeman on horses arrived and tried to keep the teenagers back. It worked for a minute.
Marshals in orange bibs then tried to form a line to try to prevent he teenagers from entering.
The children screamed at the marshals. One or two jumped the gate, and were dragged away, kicking and screaming.
Each time a youth was grabbed, the crowd became angrier, until eventually many hands managed to tear away the steel from its support. First one fence went down, then two, three, four…
The crowds rushed in. Out of nowhere, a group of men wearing red shirts with “Diligence Security” written on them came in to try to close the broken fences with their hands.
A few teens still tried to make their way in; they were sprayed with mace and kicked by the guards.
Nompumelelo Kheswa was one of the first victims. Her eyes running, she couldn’t believe what had happened to her.
“He sprayed in my eyes. He kicked me. He said he doesn’t have family in South Africa, so he doesn’t care what he does,” said Kheswa.
Dressed from head to toe in ANC clothes, Tabita Yendi was furious at what she was seeing. An elderly woman, she couldn’t believe that the youths were being abused by the authorities.
“They kicked our children,” she screamed.
The atmosphere appeared to calm down for a while, but an hour later, the crowds regrouped and blocked off Gate C, screaming at security officers.
Banging against the gates once again, shouts of “let us in” and “f*** you” could be heard as the crowd became more vicious.
Suddenly, dozens of angry youths began slipping through the fence again. Security began spraying mace indiscriminately. Some of the younger children fell down and were stomped on by those behind them.
One teenager lay on the ground, his breathing shallow. Two nurses ran forward and took off his top, trying to clear the air around him of the mace. Eventually, Sibusiso Phaladi got up, eyes streaming.
“I’m not good. I’m not okay. I’m f****ed up,” Sibusiso said. “They want me to vote ANC? Never again.”
He said the tickets had been given to them by ANC Youth League branches and they had been told they would get free food.
He and his friend both had the same number printed on their ticket.
At about 3pm, the overcrowded stadium started emptying out, fed up with waiting for Zuma.
When the president arrived, it was to an almost empty stadium.
SAME SHIT DIFFERENT DAY.........