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Exhumation of 83 political prisoners to commence on 04 April 2016

23 March 2016

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv. Michael Masutha, MP, officially launched the Gallows Exhumation Project on Wednesday, 23 March 2016 at the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre. The launch was preceded by the walkabout at the Pretoria Central Maximum security prison where the execution of political and non-political prisoners was carried out between 1960 and1990.

At least 130 political prisoners were hanged for political related offences between the period of 1960 and 1990. All those sentenced to death were transferred to Pretoria Central Maximum Security prison to undergo execution projects. Solomon Mahlangu, Benjamin Moloise, Michael Lucas, the five Vulindlela family members, Thelle Simon Mogoerane , and many others are among those who were hanged at this centre.

Out of all 130 political prisoners who were hanged, 47 have already been exhumed whilst 83 still remain buried in unmarked graves. Minister Masutha announced at the launch that the work of exhuming the remaining 83 prisoners will commence on 04 April 2016.

“In the coming months starting from 04 April 2016, the Missing Persons Task Team in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) will be conducting the exhumations of the remains of these gallant fighters. Our TRC unit with various provincial governments will then arrange for the remains to be formally handed over to the affected families for dignified reburials” said Minister Masutha.

The Minister condemned these atrocious deeds that were orchestrated by the apartheid regime to inhumanly deprive the affected families of their loved ones. 69 of the 83 human remains that are yet to be exhumed are buried in Mamelodi West cemetery whilst 14 are buried in Rebecca Street cemetery. 

The overwhelming majority (nearly 70%) of their families are in the rural Eastern Cape whilst the remainders are scattered between, Gauteng, Limpopo, Western Cape and Kwa Zulu natal. The Department of Correctional Services brought the representative of their families to attend the unveiling of the Gallows Memorial at the Pretoria Central Prison in December 2011. The Missing Persons Task Team took the family representatives to view the burial sites during that event.

“Our Department has taken steps to recognize fundamental violation and provide some form of reparations to the affected families” Minister Masutha added.   

The human remains will be exhumed, examined for DNA matching and then be handed over to the affected family after being positively identified.
It is the department’s hope that the exhumation and reburials of the remaining 83 political prisoners will assist in healing the nation and unite all of us towards a truly democratic country.

Issued by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
Enquiries: Advocate Mthunzi Mhaga
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services