The short life and tragic circumstances of his death came full circle on Monday when a tombstone was put up for Petrus Chauke in Seshego, his place of birth, nearly 41 years after his passing at the age of less than two months. The Democratic Alliance (DA) Limpopo helped his aging mother, Rachel Chauke acquire and install a tombstone for her son who died in infancy in 1976 after inhaling teargas.
DA Provincial Leader Jacque Smalle said the family had approached them with a request to put up a tombstone for Petrus. He said since becoming aware of the family’s desire to honour their son and their financial restraints the party has engaged in making their wish come true.
“1976 brought a lot of sorrow and agony to the people of South Africa. A lot of families lost loved ones and the Chauke family should be glad that their son is finally remembered. Despite the nearly 41 years following his death his mother is still in pain because she could not give her son a decent funeral. The ruling party only benefits a few and we don’t want another 1976 to change people’s minds,” Smalle said. He said the DA paid for the tombstone and also assisted the family financially.
He added that the party’s mandate was to fight for a better future for all and that they believed the youth should be given tools in order to become better people. “Rachel Chauke did not give up and encouraged youth to keep on fighting for what they aspire to achieve,” Smalle said.
Rachel recalled the events of the fateful day: “Petrus was born on 25 September 1976 and killed on 2 November 1976 when a group of police officials who came to our home in Soweto looking for my husband, Solomon Chauke fired teargas into the house after realising that my husband was not there. The teargas made my late son and his sister Francinah suffocate. Luckily my daughter did not die, but the smoke damaged her lungs,” she explained.
Chauke said her husband was hiding on top of the roof while she was in a water drum. Solomon passed away in 1998 while Francinah died in 2014. She said her husband spent most of his time in Soweto that is why they moved there to spend quality time as a family. Little did she know that her son was going to die.
Chauke said Solomon was one of the top fighters in the African Natinoal Congress but the party failed to do something for his son like they did to other families who lost their loved ones in the apartheid era, especially in 1976. Chauke, the mother of eight children of whom six are alive, said she was delighted with the DA’s gesture to help her with the tombstone.
Story & photos: ENDY SENYATSI