Press statement: Sekuruwe community takes action on desecrated graves
Issued by Jubilee South Africa, 24 September 2009
The Sekuruwe community in the Mapela area, north of Mokopane in Limpopo Province, has been taking action for the last three days to demand cooperation from the Sekuruwe Section 21 Company in the reexhumation and reburial of community graves desecrated by Anglo Platinum and its subcontractor, Phuti Funeral Homes. There has been a regular police presence at the village for the duration of the action. Today, police arrested a youth from the village.
On Tuesday, the entrance from the main road to the Sekuruwe village was blocked and no one could drive in or out. However, the community agreed that the Grade 12 learners should contiune to write their exams. The archaeologist reexhuming and reburying the graves indicated to the police that it was necessary for everyone to identify their graves. They agreed with the committee representing the community that the police would ask the Section 21 Company to come to a meeting to this end. The Section 21 Company has not cooperated and the community committee indicated that they will continue with their action until the situation is resolved.
The original gravesite is on Blinkwater Farm, belonging to the Sekuruwe community and leased earlier this year to Anglo Platinum despite protest from the community. Anglo Platinum is destroying the land in order to build a tailings dam to accommodate the waste from its mining operations.
Last year, graves were exhumed without the requisite technique resulting in damage to human remains. Graves older than 60 years were exhumed in violation of heritage regulations. Remains were reburied on land on the other side of the village. The Sekuruwe Section 21 Company, established by Anglo Platinum as its ally in the community, is alleged to have misrepresented the number of graves to be reburied so as to benefit financially. The community protested the exhumations and 47 people were arrested and charged. The case against them was subsequently dismissed.
The desecration of the graves resulted in skeletal remains being scattered across the original gravesite, the new graveyard and the police station. Due to sustained protests and the intervention of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), Anlgo Platinum was compelled to agree to the process of reexhumation of the remains and the apporpriate reburial of the reconstituted remains.
Community members reiterated that they are also going to continue fighting for their land, which they describe as the heritage of the people, the future for their children. They expressed dismay at the Government. The community has written letters to the President, the Premier’s Office, the Department of Minerals and Energy and many others to request them to come to the community to resolve the issues, but no one has responded. People from Government only came when they needed votes, promising to return, but never did.
In another development, charges against four members of the Ga Pila community, on the other side of the Anglo Platinum mine, were withdrawn yesterday. They were arrested and charged months after allegedly tampering with a fence at their own ploughing fields.
For further information, please contact: Mr. James Shiburi from Sekuruwe, 072 478 3894, or Phillipos Dolo, Jubilee Mokopane Coordinator, 073 789 2489.
George Dor, Jubilee South Africa General Secretary
Telephone: +27 (0)11 336 9190/4/5 h +27 (0)11 648 7000 f +27 (0)11 336 9196