The remains of seven former members of the PAC armed wing Poqo were exhumed at Mamelodi West Cemetery yesterday as part of the Gallows Exhumation Project and shown to family members.
Of the activists four were hanged by the apartheid regime in 1964 while the three who participated in the Pondoland Revolt were hanged in 1961.
Mangi Mmoni, whose father Richard Motsoahae was hanged when she was just a few months old, could not hold back the tears when she saw her father’s remains.
The 57-year-old from Krugersdorp woman said seeing only a few bones was not something she expected. “I expected to see a full skeleton. I obviously didn’t expect to find the skin or eyes, but I had hoped everything would make sense once I lay my eyes on the body.
But sadly, I just saw bone structures of legs, arms and a bit of skull; no chest, ribs, nothing.”
The Poqo members were hanged on 16 June 16, 1964 for the killing of security policeman Johannes Mokoena, also know as “Shorty” or “Sonnyboy”. He was shot dead in Munsieville, Krugersdorp, on the evening of March 18, 1963.
Mmoni said it was painful to meet her father as just bones. However, she was glad to have found his remains. “At least now the whole family will know where my father is and he will finally be buried with other members of his family.
“We will now be at peace once the handover ceremony is done and we get to bury him with the dignity,” she said. Motsoahae was hanged at the age of 23.
The project is aimed at recovering the remains of over 130 political prisoners who were hanged at the gallows at the then Pretoria Central Prison, now known as Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre.
After their execution, their bodies became the property of the State and were buried in unmarked graves. These were never revealed to the families.
The project is carried out by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development together with the Missing Persons Task Team of the National Prosecuting Authority.
Family members started off the day by visiting the Gallows, where they were informed of the process their loved ones had to go through before being hanged, as well as their final moments.
Lazarus Molatlhegi, whose father, Thomas was hanged at the age of 31, said this was a liberation day for all families.
“Many still do not know where their loved ones remains are, but we are humbled that we are finally reunited with them,” he said.
The families will get to bury their loved ones as soon as examinations on the remains have been conducted.