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Zenzele Coka and his brother Mgcini Coka’s caskets are set down at their village on Pampoen Kraal farm, 17 April 2021, Mkhondo, Mpumalanga. Picture: Jacques Nelles
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In a poignant and intense moment on an overcast Saturday morning, the Coka brothers, killed in a farm shooting in Mpumalanga, were returned to Pampoenkraal farm where they died.
Each of the brothers, Zenzele, 39, and Mgcini, 36, in their identical coffins, were placed on the very spot where each fell, with their elder brother, Samuel, 46, holding a tree branch to carry their spirits.
An entourage of eleven family men took turns telling the brothers, with their coffins resting on grass mats where they fell, they had lost the physical battle for their ancestral land.
They were told they were now joining the platoon of their forefathers who died fighting for their land in the spiritual realm.
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Samuel is dead quiet, holding the tree branch that carries the spirits of the brothers and the message to fight on.
At the family homestead, about 2km from where the brothers died, the coffins were taken out of the hearses, put on the ground and then they were told it is the last time they are there physically.
Two young men each held a goat, and the coffins were then taken into a tent where a secret ritual was performed on the bodies.
Photographers were barred from this ritual but this reporter was close enough to hear what was said and happening.
“This is the beginning Madoda (men). Nifile, nifela izwe lenu (you died, dying for your land). But your fight never ends. You are now joining your forefathers, who died fighting for this land,” a voice in the tent says.
The brothers were sprinkled with goat’s gall and each were buried with the gall bladder, which would connect them with their ancestors, in a ritual that took hours.
“Kuyaliwa madoda. Hambani ke niyolwa (there is a war, go fight),” one of the elders say in the tent.
Then there was silence for at least 30 minutes, with no one coming out or going into the tent.
The coffins were later taken into the main marque where all family, friends and neighbours had gathered to pay their last respects.
Here the podium was dominated by anger, fear and tears about what black people living on white-owned farms were going though.
Political parties – the ANC, EFF and ATM – were there but were barred from entering the family burial site and they all left.
The only organisation allowed in the burial site was the SA Farm Workers and Labour Tenants Association – members of which carried the coffins and sang till both graves were filled with soil.
The Coka brothers have rested, but the town is restless as Daniel Malan, 38, Cornelius Greyling, 26, Othard Clingberg, 58, and Michael Sternberg, 31, each charged with two counts of murder and one of assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, appear in the the Piet Retief Magistrate’s Court court on Monday after it was postponed last week for further investigation and a formal bail application.
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