News / South Africa

Virginia Keppler
1 minute read
1 Sep 2017
5:15 am

Man at peace after exhumation of brother’s body

Virginia Keppler

National Prosecuting Authority says bodies of the hanged political prisoners remain the property of the state.

PAC activists stand by the graves of PAC members executed by the apartheid government in Mamelodi Cemetary in Pretoria on 31 August 2017. The visit preceded an exhumation of the bodies in Mamelodi Cemetary. Picture: Yeshiel Panchia

After years of praying to God to spare his life long enough to find his brother’s remains, 84-year-old Norman Hans is now ready to meet his maker.

Yesterday, he was standing next to the open grave of his brother, Gqibile Nicholas Hans, while burning traditional incense at the Mamelodi East Cemetery.

Gqibile Hans was one of 10 political activists of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) armed wing, Pogo, whose remains were exhumed as part of the gallows exhumation project.

The project was launched by Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Michael Masutha in 2016, aimed at recovering the remains of 130 political prisoners who were hanged prior to the suspension of the death penalty in 1990.

Their families visited the gallows at Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria before they proceeded to the cemetery.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said the bodies of the hanged political prisoners remained the property of the state.

They were given paupers’ funerals in municipal cemeteries around Pretoria.

“At least 60 PAC members were hanged in the 1960s,” Mfaku said.

“The 10 PAC members exhumed today were from a period of intense political protest in Paarl in 1962. They were based in the single men’s migrant worker hostels in Mbekweni township and undertook a series of campaigns and attacks on suspected informers and white residents.

“The protest culminated in a mass night-time march in Paarl in November 1962, in which two whites were killed. Nine people were killed by the PAC protesters that year and five PAC protesters were shot dead by police.

“Mass arrests and trials followed and 20 PAC members were hanged for the events in Paarl and scores of others were imprisoned.”