Hanged political prisoners' families a step closer to closure

2016-12-14 22:45
The exhumation of the remains of prisoners who were hanged at the Kgosi Mampuru gallows and buried in unmarked graves. (Jeanette Chabalala,News24)

The exhumation of the remains of prisoners who were hanged at the Kgosi Mampuru gallows and buried in unmarked graves. (Jeanette Chabalala,News24)

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Pretoria - The brother of a political prisoner, one of dozens who were hanged decades ago then buried in unmarked graves, said his family will only find closure when the remains of his sibling are handed to them.

“I will only be happy once I have seen the coffin. I am a little bit happy, but I will be happier when the remains are handed over to the family,” Simon Xhega told News24 at the Rebecca Street Cemetery in Pretoria on Wednesday.

His brother Mtalatala Xego was 22 when he was executed. He was part of a group from the village of Mputhi, in the Eastern Cape, who were hanged at Kgosi Mampuru prison’s gallows on July 3, 1964.

The first group was hanged at 06:00 that day, and the second group at 06:45.

The remains of about 12 political prisoners were exhumed at the cemetery on Wednesday.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha presided over the exhumation.

“We hope that the recovery of these remains will go somewhere towards bringing much-needed relief from decades of pain, experience by the families of those hanged,” he said.

The prisoners would now be buried with the dignity they deserve.

Five of the bodies exhumed on Wednesday belonged to the Vulindlela family.

The family's representative, Mveli Tyhobho, said he was proud and happy that his father's remains would be returned home.

Tyhobho said it was hard seeing the remains in the cemetery.

“All these years it's been hurting us. You grow up and when you are 15 years you start realising that you don't have a father because he was slaughtered,” he said.

Tyhobho said his mother would tell him stories of how his father was killed.

In March, Masutha announced a project to exhume the remains of the 83 prisoners, who were executed at Kgosi Mampuru prison.

A total of 130 political prisoners were hanged from the prison’s gallows between 1960 and 1990. The youngest prisoner was 18. Forty-seven remains had already been exhumed.

The prisoners were mainly members of the Pan Africanist Congress and United Democratic Front.

Once positively identified, the remains would be handed to their families.

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