Govan Mbeki reburial called off

2006-01-23 22:21

Port Elizabeth - The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality has backed down from its plan to rebury the remains of President Thabo Mbeki's father, Govan, at a new museum.

Mayor Nceba Faku was warned by various highly placed people to let the matter rest.

The former premier of the Eastern Cape, Sport and Recreation Minister Makhenkesi Stofile, wrote to the African National Congress's regional management early last year, warning against the plan to move the remains of Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba to the new Red Location Museum.

In a dramatic about-turn, municipal spokesperson Kupido Baron indicated that Mbeki's mausoleum at the museum would now be used for an exhibition about his life.

Baron added that Faku spoke personally to President Mbeki three days ago about the exhumation of his father's remains.

Baron said the president expressly refused the request.

Government keeping out of row

"Our mayor respects the wishes of the Mbeki family and will fulfil them," he said.

Amid the huge row that has arisen after the plans seemed to be going ahead at the weekend, provincial and national ANC officials are as silent as the grave.

The ANC's Smuts Ngonyama referred queries to government spokespeople and said the party had no say in the matter, since Mbeki and Mhlaba both had state funerals.

Faku's plan was to exhume the remains of the heroes from the Zwide New Brighton cemetery and lay them finally to rest in a R1.2m mausoleum at Red Location Museum.

This was all to have happened on February 13 when the museum was officially opened.

Mhlaba's family apparently gave permission for this move, but Mbeki's family said his remains should stay in the cemetery where he specifically asked to buried.

Stofile's warning letter to the ANC'ss regional mangement states that the reburial of Mbeki and Mhlaba is not being handled with the necessary sensitivity and maturity and this is "unacceptable".

Stofile's letter also warns that negotiations must not be done only with the widows, but with their whole families.

He expressed serious concern about the apparent haste in which everything had taken place.

Causing unhappiness

A paragraph in the letter reads: "We note that dates are now being announced for this exhumation and reburial.

"This is causing a lot of unhappiness to some family members and the leadership of the ANC.

"It is casting a bad aspersion on the ANC in the Eastern Cape and the Nelson Mandela Bay who, incidentally are not part of the plans."

Stofile also asks in the letter addressed to regional ANC secretary Vuyo Toto what the ideological, cultural and philosophical motivation is for Mbeki and Mhlaba's reburial.

Earlier this month, the DA announced that it would ask the Scorpions to investigate, because apparently the correct tendering procedure hadn't been followed for building the mausoleum.

The unhappiness arose after the same contractors who built the R40m museum were instructed to build the mausoleum at a cost of R1.2m.

Head of Port Elizabeth's commercial crime unit, superintendent André Horak said all the documentation in this regard was now with the directorate of public prosecutions for a decision on whether or not to prosecute.