Exhumed remains of PAC activists return home

Friday, March 23, 2018

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha has officially handed over the remains of 17 Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) Paarl political activists to their families in Queenstown, Eastern Cape.

Minister Masutha handed over the remains on behalf of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Friday as part of commemorating Human Rights Month.

All 17 PAC members were hanged at the Pretoria Central Prison gallows, now known as Kgosi Mampuru, for incidents that took place during the period of intense political turmoil in the Eastern Cape between 1963 and 1967.

Speaking at the event, Minister Masutha hoped the handover will be a step for the families to heal.

“We hope that the recovery of these remains will go some way towards relieving the decades of pain experienced by the families of those hanged, and at last allow them to be buried with the dignity they deserve.”

The Minister 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.

“The bodies of the hanged political prisoners remained the property of the state and were given pauper burials in municipal cemeteries around Pretoria. Families were denied the opportunity to bury them.”

A total of 130 political prisoners from various political organisations including the PAC, the ANC, the UDF were hanged at the gallows between 1960 and 1990.

The Gallows Exhumation Project aimed to recover the remains of 83 of the hanged whose remains had not yet been found or recovered.

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 blacks to be given the death sentence. 

A study of death sentences in one year found that 47% of blacks convicted of murdering whites were given the death sentence as opposed to no death sentences at all for whites convicted of murdering blacks.

Between 1960 and 1990, at least 140 individuals were hanged for politically motivated offences.

Minister Masutha said it was for this reason that the new government has since changed this reality and established a society that values human rights and took a progressive stance to end the death penalty.

“Our democratic constitution which has guided us for the past 20 years declares the right to life as a fundamental human right. The Constitution also implores us to uphold the dignity of all living human beings,” Minister Masutha added. - SAnews.gov.za

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