2 bodies exhumed, echoes of dark past

2013-03-12 16:26
An open grave with skeletal remains during the exhumation at Avalon Cemetery in Johannesburg. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

An open grave with skeletal remains during the exhumation at Avalon Cemetery in Johannesburg. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

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Johannesburg - Relatives sang hymns and songs from the struggle for the liberation from racist white rule on Tuesday as forensic scientists exhumed two bodies, hoped to be those of young activists last seen 24 years ago at the home of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

The discovery could force a new investigation into the fate of the two from the late 1980s, when she was becoming increasingly militant and people accused of spying for the apartheid government were being killed out of hand.

The two were messengers for the armed wing of the ANC.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission said in the late 1990s said that Madikizela-Mandela was responsible for the disappearances of 21-year-old Lolo Sono and his friend Siboniso Tshabalala, 19. Madikizela-Mandela has denied all knowledge of the men.

"We never thought that the cloud that has blackened the Sono family will be removed," a pastor told more than 100 family members gathered under a tent amid gravestones overgrown with grass at Avalon Cemetery.

"What we never thought we were going to see we are going to see," he added, referring to Sono's body.

Madeleine Fullard, head of the missing persons department of the National Prosecuting Authority, cautioned the families that DNA tests must be done and it could be months before definitive identifications are made.

Only then, she said, can the remains be returned to the families for burial.

Davis Tshabalala, brother of the missing 19-year-old, said his family had gone from mortuary to mortuary in search of the body at the time of his disappearance.

Mortuary reports on the two bodies cited multiple stab wounds, Fullard said.

The bodies were found in a field and buried here, the identities unknown.

In the late 1980s, people accused of spying for the government were routinely killed, including more than a dozen by the Mandela United Football Club, which had been formed by Madikizela-Mandela.

Read more on:    trc  |  umkhonto we sizwe  |  anc  |  winnie madikizela-mandela  |  johannesburg  |  politics

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