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Death Penalty

South Africa: After Half a Century, Hanged Anti-Apartheid Activists Identified, Exhumed for Proper Burial and Grieving

Maluti Obuseng
SABC News (South Africa)
August 31, 2017
Web article

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s Political Prisoners Exhumation project has continued with the exhumation of ten Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) activists in Pretoria.

Their remains were handed over to their families for decent and dignified burials. This is part of the gallows project to exhume and allow families to bury the remains of 143 political prisoners who were hanged at the Kgosi Mampuru gallows and buried in unmarked graves.

The Co-ordinator for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s Gallows Exhumation Project, Thapelo Mokhushane, took the families of ten Pan Africanist Congress activists along the infamous 52 steps leading to the execution chambers.

Sometimes prisoners would sing on their way to the chambers. On Thursday, their families broke into song.

Families were allowed to perform rituals according to their traditions associated with death. Some spoke to the departed. Livingstone Fatyela’s family were among those present.

Fatyela was one of the members of the armed wing of the PAC who were hanged between 1963 and 1967. His brother, Zanemuhla Fatyela, says his brother will now rest in peace in his birthplace.

“We are here to come to fetch the body of our father Mr Fatyela to be buried in the Eastern Cape, back at his home. Maybe after two to three weeks they will take it to Lady Frere in a mortuary and then we will organise a funeral. After that, we will be glad if everything turns out smooth and nice.”

Remember the most painful thing about the gallows is that the bodies of the executed political activists Meanwhile, Project Co-ordinator Thapelo Mokhushane says this process helps families heal, as they were never given an opportunity to bury their loved ones with dignity.

“Remember the most painful thing about the gallows is that the bodies of the executed political activists families were denied the right to bury their remains with dignity. So families were never given that opportunity to bury the bodies of the executed political prisoners with dignity. So today they are here to witness, to walk the last fifty two steps that the executed political prisoners walked before they were executed in the execution chamber.”“Remember the most painful thing about the gallows is that the bodies of the executed political activists families were denied the right to bury their remains with dignity. So families were never given that opportunity to bury the bodies of the executed political prisoners with dignity.

“Remember the most painful thing about the gallows is that the bodies of the executed political activists families were denied the right to bury their remains with dignity. So families were never given that opportunity to bury the bodies of the executed political prisoners with dignity."

The remains of the 10 anti-apartheid activists were exhumed from pauper graves in the Mamelodi cemetery, which is where executed black people were buried under apartheid. The exhumations are part of the Gallows Exhumation Project launched by Justice Minister Michael Masutha in 2016, to recover the remains of 130 political prisoners who were hanged before the death penalty was suspended in 1990.

The President of the Pan Africanist Congress, Luthando Mbinda, also attended the event to show support for the families of those executed. He says the activists died for the good of the people of South Africa.

“They have paid their supreme sacrifice, not in fighting for their families, not in fighting for the members of the PAC, but in fighting for the restoration of land and the land the wealth of this country is not yet back to its rightful owners. That’s what they were fighting for.”