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The BBC's Jane Standley
"People here want answers"
 real 56k

Sunday, 15 April, 2001, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
SA mourns stadium victims
Relative of one of the victims during the ceremony
Scenes of extreme grief as the names of the dead are read out
By Greg Barrow at Ellis Park

Thousands of South African football supporters have taken part in a religious cleansing ceremony at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg to mark the deaths of 43 people crushed to death at a match there last Wednesday.

President Thabo Mbeki joined the ceremony, alongside government ministers and sporting stars, including the British boxer, Lennox Lewis, who is in South Africa for a world title fight later this month.


Too many in our country die from unnatural causes. We should not add to that by having people die at the places of celebration of life such as our sports competitions

Thabo Mbeki
Accompanied by the voices of a mournful choir, clergymen and women began the process of cleansing Ellis Park Stadium.

In a ceremony that mixes traditional African beliefs with Christianity, they dipped fly whisks in holy water and sprinkled it on the grass.

It was the same place where, a few days ago, the bodies of football supporters crushed during a match between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs had been laid out.

President Mbeki came to offer his personal condolences to the friends and families of the bereaved.

Lennox Lewis
Boxer Lennox Lewis was among the mourners
"Too many in our country die from unnatural causes. We should not add to that by having people die at the places of celebration of life such as our sports competitions."

There were scenes of extreme grief as the names of the dead were read out.

Some people were so overcome, they had to be carried on stretchers out of the stadium.

This cleansing ceremony was for them and for all South Africans who were shocked by the scale of the Ellis Park Stadium disaster.

President Thabo Mbeki
Mbeki offered condolences to relatives of the dead
It was an attempt to draw a line under the tragic accident, to lay the spirits of the dead to rest and to chase out any demons still languishing in the sporting arena.

The deaths at Ellis Park have shocked the whole of South Africa, a football-mad nation which still hopes to bring the football World Cup to Africa for the very first time in 2010.

But before that happens, the football authorities here need to improve security and ticketing arrangements.

All of this will come under scrutiny during a judicial commission of inquiry charged with finding the root cause of the tragedy.

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15 Apr 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Fighting for life at Ellis Park
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