Bodies of Poqo killers exhumed, reunited with relatives

NPA says those hanged for their role in reign of terror paid ultimate price for democracy

Remains of executed PAC activists exhumed, reunited with relatives

Pretoria - Siyanda Madikane climbed into his great uncle's unmarked grave to speak to him and collect the dirt around brittle bones.

"We are here for you, we are coming to take you home to lie next to your father, your brothers, your uncles, everyone," said Madikane on Thursday

Lennox Mngambi Madikane - his uncle - was executed by hanging when he was only 25 years old on November 1, 1963.

Lennox was among 10 Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) members who were executed for political crimes [for Sabotage and murder – PW] and buried in unmarked graves in the Mamelodi West Cemetery in Pretoria, more than 50 years ago.

The members who were part of the PAC's armed wing, Poqo, were hanged during 1963 to 1967. Their graves were exhumed on Thursday.

After their execution, their bodies became the property of the state and were buried in unmarked graves, which were never revealed to the families.

Madikane said his grandfather was tormented by his brother's murder. He said it pained him that his uncle died for democracy and was now forgotten.

"Those who passed away at that time, no one is thinking about them, only those who are alive are honoured," he said.

'Released from prison'

PAC national chairperson Phillip Dlamini said the exhumations are significant for the liberation movement.

"They are being released from prison, because when you are sentenced to death, you are a prisoner, even in the grave.

"We will never find closure as a liberation movement and as soldiers, there will be no peace without the return of those bodies."

Madeleine Fullard, head of missing persons' task team in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said these exhumations were significant.

"Many people paid the ultimate price for the democracy that we have today and those families that were directly affected have been in a state of limbo, not knowing what happened, the person just vanished into thin air."

The exhumations form part of the Gallows Exhumation Project, aimed at recovering the remains of 130 political prisoners who were hanged on the gallows.

The death penalty was abolished in 1990.

The NPA is working in conjunction with Truth and Reconciliation Commission unit in the Department of Justice.

The PAC members executed were:

Date executed

Vezile Jaxa
November 1 1963

Lennox Mngambi Madikane
November 1 1963

Mxolisi Damane
November 1 1963

Convicted and sentenced to death under Sabotage Act for the Paarl uprising in which Rentia Vermeulen and Frans Richard were murdered. - PW

Gadavu Johannes Notyawe
October 14 1963

For the murder of Klaas Hoza, a farm worker chopped to death with axes in Paarl. Notyawe was also convicted for the murder of George Tshisa - PW

Gqibile Nicholas Hans
May 30 1967

Baden Koboka
May 30 1967

Jabavu Jonas Mzondi
May 30 1967

Livingstone Fatyela
May 30 1967

Bongezile Edward Sikundla
May 30 1967

Msimasi Wellington Tyobeka
May 30 1967

For the murder of Maurice Berger, a shopkeeper in Wellington who was axed to death. - PW