Political prisoners’ remains handed over to families

Written by: Mokgethwa Ngoepe

Gqibile Hans and Wowo Mzondi were exhumed from pauper graves in Mamelodi and Rebecca Street cemeteries in Tshwane as part of the Gallows Exhumation Project.Wowo Mzondi was only four-years- old when his father was sentenced to death by the apartheid regime for the killing of a white shopkeeper in Paarl, Western Cape, as part of the missions undertaken by the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) combatants in 1967.

As a result of growing up without a father, Mzondi – now aged 55 and unemployed – says he had lost out on many opportunities in life, including an education. “It saddens me to think that had my father been alive, my struggle to survive would have been lessened,” said the married father of four.

For Mzondi there was joy and sadness as he accepted the remains of his late father, Jabavu Mzondi. The remains of Wowo Mzondi and Gqibile Hans were finally handed over to their respective families in Mbekweni, Paarl, by Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Advocate Michael Masutha, recently.

Mzondi said that he is happy that his family can now find closure as the remains of his father have been brought home after five decades of suffering, all thanks to the department’s Gallows Exhumation Project.

“We would like to sincerely thank the department for a job well done. We will now have a final resting place for him, which is important for us on the road towards healing,” he said.

The Gallows Exhumation Project involves the exhumation, handover and reburial of the remains of 83 political prisoners who were hanged at the Kgosi Mampuru Gallows and buried in unmarked graves.

The Hans family was also grateful to finally receive the remains of their loved one. Norman Hans said his brother Gqibile Hans was an ambitious individual who adored education. “My brother was only 26-years-old when he was arrested in 1961; he is survived by twin sons who live in Lesotho,” he said.

Hans and Wowo Mzondi were executed in 1967 following the killing of Maurice Berger, a white shopkeeper in Paarl, as part of the missions undertaken by the PAC Task Force which they belonged to as armed combatants.

Hans and Wowo Mzondi were exhumed from pauper graves in the Mamelodi and Rebecca Street cemeteries in Tshwane in August 2017 and March 2018, respectively, by the National Prosecuting Authority’s Missing Persons Task Team. This was done in partnership with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Unit of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development which ensures implementation of all TRC recommendations.

Addressing mourners and the Paarl community, Minister Masutha said: “This tells us an important message about the place that Mr Hans and Mr Mzondi and their fellow Paarl activists occupy in South Africa’s history. They are heroes of the freedom we enjoy today.”