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Speech by Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha at a special repatriation ceremony of Late Angolan General

The Government of the Republic of Angola formally requested the Government of the Republic of South Africa for assistance in exhuming and repatriating the remains of the late General Arlindo Chenda Pena “Ben”, ex-Deputy Chief of Staff of the Angolan Armed Forces, who passed away in South Africa on the 18th of October 1998 due to illness. Circumstances at the time of his passing conspired against the transfer of his mortal remains to Angola.

The recovery and exhumation of the remains of General Pena is as a result of a joint effort by South Africa and Angola, two countries that have emerged from difficult political conflicts that cost many lives.

Both countries continue to seek ways through which to recover from those conflicts and to build reconciliation and national unity. The recovery of the remains of those who perished in the conflicts and their return to their families for proper burial is an important step towards this national reconciliation and unity.

Since taking over from former President José Eduardo dos Santos on 26 September 2017, President João Lourenço has embarked on a programme of national reconciliation and unity and the due recognition to those who fought in the anti-colonial struggle for liberation. He has also extended a hand of friendship to both UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) and the NFLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola ) led by Jonas Savimbi and Holden Roberto respectively.

South Africa is pleased to have played a role in assisting the Angolan government in this recovery, exhumation and repatriation in line with our commitment to the principle of international solidarity. The process was overseen by The Presidency, with the Department of Justice as the implementing arm. 

The physical recovery of General Pena’s remains was conducted jointly by the TRC Unit in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Missing Persons Task Team in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

These two units have to date conducted the exhumation of 145 remains of missing persons in South Africa, a program designed to heal the wounds of the past and to offer a form of reparations to those families who lost their loved ones during the struggle against apartheid. 

The Missing Persons Task Team prepared the legal requirements for the exhumation and conducted the exhumation in the presence of members of the General’s family. An undertaker was also contracted to perform certain legally required functions.  The family was consulted during the exhumation.  The Presidency and representatives of the Angolan government were also present throughout.

The TRC Report noted that the political conflict in South Africa extended well beyond its borders and it is therefore fitting that South Africa plays a role in supporting Angola’s reconciliation efforts. 

We wish the Government and sister people of Angola success in their journey to build a peaceful and united country.