On entering Sharpeville on a March Saturday, EWN found a full gym routine in session in a park next to the dam. There are about 30 people, most of whom are women, taking instructions from a very fit coach.
Some children have come with their parents and are playing on a broken wall near an abandoned building in the park.
Others have come just before lunchtime to play together, a few with their bicycles. But at some point, all the children are running.
The Old Sharpeville graveyard is completely overgrown. There is grass taller than most of the tombstones, and a lone teddy bear-shaped slab of marble that marks a child’s gravesite stands out among the brown weeds.
Two women visiting a part of the site that seems to have been burnt down. They say the grass at that spot was burnt by mistake, “probably by a cigarette”.
“The other gravesite, where the Sharpeville victims are buried, they are busy cutting that grass now,” one woman says. “They come every year. But only once.”
A party of children walking up the street is headed towards the birthday girl’s house. Her name is Tlhalefo Mthembu. She’s carrying a blown up metallic 8-shaped balloon. It is her crown birthday. It’s a themed party, and everyone is in ballerina skirts and Minnie Mouse ears, and chatting excitedly as they make their way up the street.
Sharpeville’s Groove Lounge is famous in the Vaal. Twenty-seven-year-old 016Bangaboyz member Mandla Mtimkulu, AKA Scottish, frequents it when he’s not travelling around the country with Black Motion and other celebrities with his bandmates. He’s driven from Three Rivers to eat here.
“It’s got the best Sunday food. It’s the only place I want to come to when I’m around.”
After the HIV and Aids crisis eased with wider distributions of antiretrovirals and less stigmatisation around the illness, Sehanka turned the hospice into an old age home.
“More people needed a home than a place to die.”
Sehanka’s care is renowned. The majority of the people who live at the home are from other provinces, brought by younger family members who have moved to Gauteng for work from other provinces and want their elderly close by so they can visit them.
He has always been a giving person, Lerata and Motsamai explain. Since a young man, he has built schools, a home for a disabled person with his own hands, tutored young people with their school work, and provided school shoes for children who needed them. He is also a strong proponent of supporting local businesses instead of doing bulk shopping in Johannesburg like others in Sharpeville do. And for all his efforts, he was able to once again buy a house for himself two years ago.
Struggles in the Emfuleni municipality and a lack of 21 March commemorations this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak might make reminding other South Africans that Sharpeville has living and breathing residents today a bit more difficult than usual. But in the meantime, Sharpeville’s people - such as Sehanka, Lerata, Motsamai and other residents - will continue to keep their eyes firmly focused on their future.