Families of hanged UDF members find closure


Families of hanged UDF members find closure

Neo Goba | 2017-05-31 16:29:38.0

Anguished families stand by as experts dig up a few graves where 15 political prisoners bodies were buried by apartheid authorities at the Mamelodi West Cemetery in Pretoria, in a bid to find closure with the exhumation of the loyal remains of theirs relatives.

Image by: Neo Goba

Anguished families are hoping to find closure as the remains of eight of 15 political prisoners buried in graves at the Mamelodi West Cemetery in Pretoria are exhumed.

The prisoners were hanged at Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre where 130 political prisoners were executed between 1960 and 1990.

The remains of 47 of the executed prisoners have since been exhumed.

“Today’s event is about exhuming the remains of all those political activists who were judiciary executed who belonged to the United Democratic Front‚” said Thapelo Mokushane‚ deputy director in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Unit and coordinator for the gallows exhumation project.

“Majority of them came from the Eastern Cape and one from the Western Cape. This is a very big step for the families because it enables them to begin to find closure‚”said Mokushane. When the prisoners were executed‚ their remains became state property so families were never given the right to bury their loved ones with dignity‚ he added.

Only eight bodies will be exhumed and the bones will be taken for testing in order to prevent mixing the remains of the deceased.

The families of the eight victims gathered at the prison and the cemetery to pay tribute to former UDF prisoners. They were accompanied by Nombulelo Bixa‚ mayor of Sundays River Valley Municipality in the Eastern Cape‚ who said this process of exhuming the bodies had caused pain to the families.

“The grieving has started again because it seems as if this thing has started again. Most of the families were so emotional to a point where a young lady cried to a point where I had to console her. The bottom line is this is really frustrating but the families really appreciate what government has done because it’s been a while since they have wanted to take the bones of their family members back home‚” said Bixa.

Earlier‚ the families went to the Kgosi Mampuru prison where they were shown the prison cells‚ gallows and shower area that the prisoners utilised during their detention.

Each family took turns to connect spiritually with their beloved ones by burning incense and speaking to them individually.

The families have been here since Monday and are expected to go back to their homes on Thursday. The department of Justice and Correctional Services sponsored the trip and accommodation for the families.

Mokushane was hesitant when asked how much this project cost the department‚ stating that it was a private matter.

He told TimesLIVE that this project would go on until they found and identified each political prisoner. The Pan African Congress would be the next party that the department would be undergoing this process with.

The project to exhume the remains of 130 executed political prisoners was officially launched in March 2016 by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha.

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