Sangoma tells how she located KZN graves

2015-03-24 14:31
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu and members of the provincial executive council visit the scene where about 100 graves were reportedly discovered on a sugarcane farm in Dududu. (Reinhardt Hartzenberg, KZN Office of the Premier. Sapa)

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu and members of the provincial executive council visit the scene where about 100 graves were reportedly discovered on a sugarcane farm in Dududu. (Reinhardt Hartzenberg, KZN Office of the Premier. Sapa)

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Amanda Khoza, The Witness

Durban - The sangoma credited with the discovery of the mass graves on a KwaZulu-Natal farm says she feels like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders.

Gogo Bongekile Nonhlanhla Nkomo, fondly known as Mshanelo - loosely meaning "the broom" - was the centre of attention on Monday as she led government officials to three alleged mass burial sites at Glenroy Farm on the South Coast.

It was Nkomo’s vision that led to the apparent discovery of gravesites in the village of Zembeni and many flocked to see the woman they had heard tales of.

Clad in ANC green, gold and black, Nkomo - originally from Msinga - told the media that although she was glad that the government was investigating her claims, the road ahead was a long one. Before recounting the sequence of events, Nkomo, 66, first lambasted the media, saying she had been misquoted in various news reports.

'Release our spirits'

She said in March last year, just before the elections, unidentified men appeared to her in a dream, pleading for her help. “They were strangers. Some of them were burnt, I assume from when they were harvesting the canefields, and others were bleeding.

“They asked me to please, ‘Release our spirits like you did with the others’,” said Nkomo.

The woman, who said she was the national secretary of the National Unitary Professional Association for African Traditional Health Practitioners of South Africa, said she had been a sangoma since November 1969.

The spirits revealed their whereabouts to Nkomo. “At first it looked like a dam, and then I realised that this is where they were buried. I did not know where in KZN they were.

“In the dream I saw them travelling on tar, then gravel. I saw trees and I saw yellow things,” she explained, without going into more detail.

She said the spirits weighed heavily on her shoulders and she became ill.

“I went to Transport MEC Willies Mchunu’s office and I could not find him. I started to develop sores on my body and then my throat hurt, so much so that I could not speak, and that is when I said I must go and see Arts and Culture MEC Ntombikayise SibhidlaSaphetha.”

'Far from over'

After the elections, accompanied by officials from the Department of Correctional Services, she asked the management at Illovo Sugar if she could gain access to their property, but they declined. “I pleaded with them, but they refused. I had to lie and say that one of my family members was buried there.

“It was only then that they let me on the property. When they let me in, they showed me the wrong place. I told them that the place the spirits showed me was on top of a hill overlooking sugarcane. We eventually located the place.”

She said she approached Vulamehlo Mayor Thabani Dube and did a presentation, which included informing him about her dream. “I have suffered. The past couple of months have been really difficult. I have these gold teeth because they pulled my teeth out. I have been abused by these spirits.

“What people don’t understand is that I lead a different lifestyle. I am controlled by the spirits.”

Nkomo said she was happy with the progress made so far but that “it is far from over”.

Nkomo said she had not been contacted by families of missing persons yet, but she had heard rumours that families had come forward looking for her.

Read more on:    durban  |  culture

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