Last grave at Dimbaza: a harrowing account of bantustan brutality

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Last Grave at Dimbaza is a 1974 documentary shot clandestinely by a group consisting of South African exiles and British film students. (Photo: Still from film)
Last Grave at Dimbaza is a 1974 documentary shot clandestinely by a group consisting of South African exiles and British film students. (Photo: Still from film)
  • Last Grave at Dimbaza is a 1974 documentary shot clandestinely by a group consisting of South African exiles and British film student.
  • It was to become one of the most influential films about the functions and mechanisms of Apartheid. 
  • The film’s producer, Nana Mahomo, says she wanted "to show what it is like for the black people of South Africa to be on the receiving end of the white government's apartheid policy".


Last Grave at Dimbaza is a 1974 documentary shot clandestinely by a group consisting of South African exiles and British film students, and was to become one of the most influential films about the functions and mechanisms of Apartheid. The film’s producer, Nana Mahomo, says she wanted "to show what it is like for the black people of South Africa to be on the receiving end of the white government's apartheid policy".

In one scene, the camera pans across three bright-eyed, brown babies; hair emaciated and breaking, bellies distended with the tell-tale signs of malnutrition. The camera continues its movement over arid, infertile ground. Plants wilt and wither. Hands scratch at the earth for a root, a seed.

"Yet less than a 100 years ago, the forefathers of these people were famous for owning hundreds of cattle. Today, the children are in tatters, and the women grow old in their twenties."

A non-diegetic voice intones as the lens captures barrenness, brown and a graveyard containing the remains of 60 adults and 450 children, most of whom died before the age of two. In the special graveyard just for children, a large number of small ditches gape hungrily in the ground, dug in preparation of next month's bodies. Lifeless tiny hands. Bloodless tiny feet.

WATCH | Last Grave at Dimbaza

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