Graves: president to decide

2015-03-24 00:00

INSTEAD of answering the many issues posed by the supposed ­presence of bodies at a South Coast farm, a visit to the site yesterday by Premier Senzo Mchunu presented more ­questions than answers.

Are there indeed 100 bodies, as has been speculated?

Are the remains those of humans?

If so, were they prison labourers?

Or were they political prisoners?

Why, eight months after the apparent discovery, has not one grave been exhumed?

Mchunu answered some questions yesterday based on preliminary findings and relying on information received from sangoma Bongekile Nonhlanhla Nkomo, whose vision led to the discovery of grave sites at Glenroy Farm in Zembeni village, Dududu, last year.

Unconfirmed reports have placed the number of remains at 100.

Mchunu was accompanied by ­members of the provincial executive committee including Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mnchunu, Arts and Culture MEC Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha, Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, Social Development MEC Weziwe Thusi, and Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Cyril Xaba.

Mchunu said his office would submit a report detailing their findings to President Jacob Zuma by Friday this week.

Mchunu contacted Zuma last week, informing him about the discovery.

“He was shocked. I told him that we had plans to go to the farm. He said I should write him a report on the findings after I had gone there.”

Mchunu said the province would wait for a directive from Zuma on how to handle the matter.

“The president will tell us what to do from here. Maybe he will refer the matter to the national government, maybe he will want the province, national and traditional leaders to work together with investigators.

“We don’t know which authorities will be called to do the investigations on our behalf. If he says we should handle it, then we will, but until then we won’t do anything.”

Mchunu said the KZN Arts and ­Culture Department had been tasked to be the “eyes and ears of the provincial government”.

He said the government was gearing up for a mammoth task in investigating the deaths, which are believed to have occurred between 1960 and 1980.

It is believed by some that the remains are those of prisoners from Durban, who had been “bought” by farmer Walter Lindsay. The farm is now owned by Illovo Sugar.

During the site visit, members of the executive were taken to a room where the criminals were locked up.

“There are no windows in that room. If the legend is anything to go by, then if you got sick, you died there …

“We don’t want to assume that these were only labourers that came from prisons; we know that they could be from anywhere — they could be political prisoners.”

Mnchunu said the second site visited resembled a grave site.

“It is a large burial site and the people were buried over a period of time. We don’t know how many remains there are, because there is a possibility that some were buried on top of one another.”

He said now that he had seen the graves, he would be able to write to the president based on what he had seen.

“We indicated to him that we want a full-blown investigation. We envisage that it will be in the form of a commission, something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, because we want to open up a comprehensive investigation to establish whether they were from KZN and whether they were indeed prisoners. We want justice for those families.”

Asked why it had taken so long to act, he said the government had to establish the facts first.

“After Gogo maNkomo reported her dream to Arts and Culture MEC Sibhidla-Saphetha’s office, she went on a fact-finding mission of her own.

“She did her homework and spoke to the locals and then she briefed cabinet earlier this month about her findings.”

Mchunu said taking into account South Africa’s history of oppression, he did not rule out that people had been oppressed on the farm.

“There is suspicion that the deaths were man-made. This did not happen in isolation; the locals knew what happened and we are pleading to anyone who may have information to please assist us,” said Mchunu.

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