Remains of activists exhumed

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Soweto – The remains of two freedom fighters have been exhumed at the Avalon Cemetery in Soweto.

“The exhumation of the remains of freedom fighters is part of healing and closing the sad chapter of South African conflict because a lot of our people were simple killed because they wanted freedom and democracy,” said African National Congress (ANC) provincial secretary in Gauteng, David Makhura.

“We are pleased that the NPA is following all the processes identified during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that the remains of all missing freedom fighters who were brutally and secretly killed in different parts of the country must be exhumed and handed over to their respective families for reburial,” said Makhura.

Makhura was speaking to SAnews at Avalon Cemetery in Soweto on Tuesday where the graves of two young activists, Corlett “Lolo” Sono, 21, and Siboniso Shabalala, 19, who served Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK) as couriers were exhumed by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Missing Persons Task Team and the South African Police Service Victim identification Centre.

Shabalala’s younger sister, Sebenzile said: “My family is now relieved, the 24 years we have spent without finding the remains of my brother was very painful. Although I miss my brother, I’m happy (because we have his remains) and this is a blessing to us as a family.”

She described her late brother as a humble person who loved people and always sang liberation struggle songs at their house.

Corlett’s uncle, John Sono said: “Talking about Corlett brings back those bitter memories but we want to appreciate government’s efforts of finding the remains of our son.”

Umkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA)'s national chairperson Abbey Maphatsoe said the two activists belong to the Department of Military Veterans, so their families deserve to receive all the benefits like any other members of MK.

MK was launched as an armed wing of the ANC. “We’ve a programme of exhumation, repatriation and reburials of our members who were secretly buried in and outside our country. The programme serves as preservation of our history, legacy and heritage.

“It is important to exhume the remains of all those who contributed significantly to the liberation of this country,” said Maphatsoe who described Sono and Shabalala as struggle heroes, who went down to their graves without confessing to the enemy that they are working for the ANC.

The Missing Persons Task Team has established that two bodies with multiple stab wounds were found in a field in Diepkloof Extension, Soweto, on the morning of 15 November 1988.

The two were taken to the state mortuary and later buried as unidentified persons with a large group of paupers in Avalon cemetery. 

Representing the NPA, Madeleine Fullard said the remains will be taken to the laboratory for DNA tests which might take two to three months in order to confirm their identities.

“After the DNA tests, Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe will then hand over the remains to the two families,” she said.

Sono is the first born of the late Nicodemus and Dorothy Sono of Diepkloof, Soweto. Prior to his death on November 13, 1988, Sono was preparing to leave the country to formally join the MK.

Shabalala who also grew up in Meadowlands, Soweto disappeared on November 14, 1988 also preparing to leave the country to join MK. -