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Remains of UDF activists handed over at emotional ceremony

By Afikile Lugunya - Nov 7, 2017
Remains of UDF activists handed over at emotional ceremony

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv. Michael Masutha, on Monday presided over the official handover ceremony of the exhumed human remains of 12 United Democratic Front (UDF) political prisoners at an emotional event held at the Nangoza Jebe Hall, in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth.

He was accompanied by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti; Eastern Cape MEC for Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture (DSRAC), Dr. Pemmy Majodina, as well as members of the newly-elected African National Congress (ANC) Eastern Cape Provincial Executive Committee (PEC), which was led by Chairperson, Oscar Mabuyane.

All twelve UDF members were hanged at the Kgosi Mampuru Prison gallows, in Pretoria, for incidents that took place during the period of intense political turmoil in the Eastern Cape between 1985 and 1986, the Department of Justice said.

The handover is part of the gallows project, which entails the exhumation, handover and reburial of the remains of 83 political prisoners, who were hanged at the Kgosi Mampuru gallows and buried in unmarked graves. A total of 130 political prisoners were hanged at the gallows between 1960 and 1990. 

Addressing families and those gathered for the handover, Minister Masutha said that "at the time, the bodies of hanged prisoners remained the property of the State and families were not permitted to attend their burial".

“It means you were a prisoner of the State even in death.”

The 12 deceased, whose remains were handed over to their families on Monday, are Thobile Lloyd, Zwelidumile Mjekula, Kholisile Dyakala, Raymond Welile Gwebushe, Tsepo Letsoare, Sipho Mahala, Siphiwe Lande, Makhezwane Menze, Lungile Rewu, Ndumiso Sito Siphenuka, Benjamin Mlondolozi Gxothiwe and Mangena Jeffrey Boesman.

“During apartheid rule, it was common for black people convicted of murdering whites to be sentenced to death, but very rare for whites, who murdered black people to be given the death sentence. 

“A study of death sentences in one year found that 47% of black people convicted of murdering whites were given the death sentence as opposed to no death sentences at all for whites convicted of murdering black people. Between 1960 and 1990, at least 130 individuals were hanged for politically-motivated offences,” Masutha said.

He then narrated how each individual died. Amongst the deceased was Thobile Lloyd, then aged 27, who was among ten individuals charged with murder.

“During the trial, eight of the accused escaped of whom two were recaptured. The four remaining accused faced charges for the killing of two men on 18 April 1985 and a policeman on 28 April 1985 in KwaZakhele, in Port Elizabeth," Masutha described.

"In the first incident, a large group of UDF supporters decided at a people’s court to execute certain individuals suspected of certain murders in the community. In the second incident, a policeman was abducted from his home and also necklaced to death with car tyres.

"Lloyd was convicted of the first two murders and was sentenced to death on 7 July 1987. He was hanged nine months later on 14 April 1988."

At the end of the ceremony, families received caskets carrying the remains of their loved ones.

Government has forgotten us

However, Lloyd’s brother, Vuyani, was not entirely happy at just receiving the remains of his late brother claiming that government has neglected them after they sacrificed so much for the struggle.

“We are happy that at last the ANC managed to finally return the bones of our brother back home. As the Lloyd family, we have a very strong apartheid history. Firstly, my brother - the one we are here for today, was hanged and my father was arrested in 1964 and released in 1972 and was deported to Dimbaza, which was a barren land that time.

“However, I want to know which criteria is the government using to compensate and recognise the people that brought the freedom of our country,” he said.

According to Vuyani, they received R26 400 as compensation, which he claims is an insult to his family as other families are got over R100 000.

“It painful to me because people, who used to work with my late father are living in mansions at Dimbaza while we are suffering, getting R26 400 while other families received over R100 000 - it is an insult to us as the Lloyd family."

Andiswa Vimba, the daughter of Thobile Lloyd, said that she was happy that they finally will know where her father’s remains are buried even though she was still four months old when her father was hanged.

Families still searching for loved ones

Still, for other families, the search for their loved ones continues. A local mother, Sibongile Mngadi, who also attended the handover, coul not stop crying, pleaded with government to help find her son, Mandla Mngadi, whom she said was known as Zola Mlilo during the struggle.

Apparently, she had attended the event thinking that he was among those that were being recognised on Monday.

“I have knocked in every door trying to find Mandla, I just want to know where his bones are. If he was amongst these people, I would have been happy because at least I would know where his bones are,” she told RNEWS.

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