South Africa: More Exhumations in Mahikeng

press release

More remains of freedom fighters that were killed and secretly buried in unmarked graves still need to be exhumed from the Old Mmabatho cemetery in Mahikeng in the North West Province, the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) has revealed.

The contribution of Vuyane Goniwe (MK Jorrison) and Cyprian Bheki Hlatswayo (MK Bismarck) towards the liberation struggle were celebrated with their families during their exhumation and the Provincial Mandela month celebration held at the Mmabatho Civic Centre recently.

In appealing for reconciliation in her speech delivered at the event, North West Premier Thandi Modise said that there is a need to build a nation that can forgive, because a nation that forgives can look back at itself and say that it has done great things.

"We should teach our children the truth so that in future they are not tempted to put others through what we went through. We must defend the truth as we know it. We were not trained to follow a certain truth but to be frank, to uphold values to liberate and educate, to defend the truth at all costs and to die in service.

I should not be misrepresented to be supporting the ANCYL when I say that, we are in denial if we do not admit that our struggle was not just for political freedom but also for economic freedom and land because it was not a struggle for half freedom.

We need to reclaim true values of discipline, dedication, service, honesty and humility. We have allowed strange behaviour to creep into our ranks. We need to take a stand and choose the right life and the right way of the ANC and not of factions. If we are scared to challenge what is wrong in our country then we are not worthy of the uniform and ranks we were awarded. We should re-examine our consciences. " the Premier emphasised.

Premier Modise thanked the Goniwe and Hlatswayo families for the contributions of their sons who were killed in October 1978 after a fierce battle that lasted several hours on a farm at Masutlhe 1 outside Mahikeng instead of surrendering to sell out to the enemy.

Modise commended the NPA Missing Persons Task Team that is working with Argentinian Forensic anthropologist, Claudia Bisso for its tireless effort to trace freedom fighters most whom were killed and buried as paupers by apartheid forces without the knowledge of their families. Bisso was part of the team that excavated the remains of Che Guervara in Bolivia.

"Those who are criticising us for celebrating our heroes and heroines don't know the pain that these families endured for over 30 years. In these families we have found our relatives and genuine comrades" she asserted.

In appreciating that the two freedom fighters will finally be buried with dignity, Sarafina Hlongwane-Funani sister to Cyprian Bheki Hlongwane said the pair had authored their lives selflessly to accommodate the masses of people and had joined the struggle for liberations without pursuit of monetary gain or tenders. She said that theirs was an act of altruism, pure of heart, solely dedicated for the emancipation of the oppressed.

Eighty-four year old Fikiswa Goniwe, mother to Vuyane Goniwe who had travelled with relatives and was accompanied by MKMVA members from the Eastern Cape to the exhumation echoed Hlongwane-Funani's sentiments adding that the event to honour their sons has assisted them to find closure.

Speakers from National MKMVA, Tlhakoyapele Heritage Institute, COSATU and Chief Whip of the Majority Party in the National Assembly, Mathole Motshekga who described the occasion as solemn, graceful but joyous occasion also highlighted the need to reclaim discipline.

MKMVA Provincial Chairperson, Tebogo Kebotlhale welcomed the willingness of 84 year-old Rantoko Lefenya of his farm on which the incident took place to be part of the national liberation route heritage sites.

Kebotlhale agreed with the Premier Modise that a memorial stone in honour of the two freedom fighters needs to be erected and further proposed that a replica MK training base with trenches to be used as youth skills training centre to give life to the impoverished rural community.

The exhumations have brought to 79 the number of freedom fighters and activists who were exhumed by the NPA's Missing Persons' Task Team across the country. Ten remains have thus far been exhumed in the North West Province mostly from areas that were formerly in Bophuthatswana.

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