Media Statements

Home> Newsroom> Statements

Minister Masutha officially handed over exhumed remains of 14 POQO Political Prisons

11 February 2017

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv. Michael Masutha presided over the officially handing of exhumed human remains of 14 POQO political prisoners. The remains were exhumed in Pretoria between 14 December 2016 and 31 January 2017.

During the handover Minister Michael Masutha said the official handing over of the exhumed human remains and reburial is done in recognition of the sacrifices made by political activists. He told the Mputhi community on 11 February that the activists were judicially executed between 1960 and 1990 by the then apartheid regime.

The Minister further said, “As government we recognise the important role played by liberation movements like the Azapo and the Pan African Congress (PAC) in the struggle for liberating our people”.

The slain activists, who were members of POQO, the military wing of the PAC, were sentenced to death after being part of a large group of about 60 people who launched an attack on a road construction camp next to the Mbashe River on the road between Mthatha and Engcobo.

Of the 14 activists, five were members of the Vulindlela family – Mbhekaphantsi (18yrs), Sihelegu (28yrs), Sandunge (30yrs), Bhonase (46yrs) and Malize (30yrs). One of the activists, Thembeni Swelindawo, died of natural causes while on death row and was buried as a pauper at the Mamelodi cemetery.

The Vulindlela family were hanged on the same day, on the 3rd of July 1963, alongside with Bennet Mpetu (20yrs), Right Mangqikana (53yrs), Bawokazi Mangqikana (30yrs), Nqaba Memani (30yrs), Siwana Mlahleki (31yrs), Mili Poli (43yrs), Mtalatala Xhego (22yrs) and Dumisa Galeni (30yrs).

The first group was hanged at 6:00am and the other group at 6:45am. The youngest of the activists was Mbhekaphantsi Vulindlela, who was only 18 at the time. 

“To the families of our departed comrades, after travelling hundreds of kilometres from Mputhi village to Gauteng to witness the exhumation of their remains, you must be relieved that at last you can now close the chapter in this dignified and sombre occasion for your loved ones. We must remind ourselves of the life and times of other struggle heroes and heroines who made ultimate sacrifices so that we can enjoy this freedom,” said the Minister.

The Minister said, “As we proceed to take these cadres to be with their forebears, let us then be reminded to constantly be on guard, to defend this democracy, for it did not come cheap”.

Issued by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

Mthunzi Mhaga
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services