Jubilee South Africa
National Office
Press Statement
28 May 2009
Original Removal of Graves Took Place in 2008 to Make Way for a Tailings Dam at ANGLO PLATINUM’s PPL MINE
Today a process of grave re-exhumation began that is overseen by the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), under the supervision of Dr. Amanda Esterhuysen, an archaeologist at Wits University, who is on the council of SAHRA.
These graves – all over 60 years old –  were exhumed and reburied last year to make way for a tailings dam for Anglo Platinum’s PPL Mine north of Mokopane. Exhumation of graves over 60 years old require a permit and a monitored process that must be overseen by SAHRA. There were concerns about the original exhumation, which led to this process to correct any problems that might have occurred. This re-exhumation is being undertaken by qualified professionals for SAHRA.
During today’s re-exhumation by the authorities, one of the elders in the village – Mr. James Shiburi – witnessed the re-exhumation of a grave labelled with his grandfather’s name, Jim Shiburi. However, inside there was a coffin labeled with another person’s name and that coffin did not contain anything but plastic. The grave of Mr.Shiburi’s Grandmother, Mrs. Sana Shiburi was also exhumed – the coffin was labeled “Sara Shiburi” and contained some few pieces of clothes and pieces of bones, according to Mr. Shiburi. Another grave of a relative of Mr. Frans Lelaka was also re-exhumed today – in that grave there were only 3 long bones and about 10 bone fragments. These remains will all be examined and reported on by the authorities for full results.
More graves will be re-exhumed as part of this process, but there were many more graves exhumed last year and reburied for Anglo Platinum that were under 60 years old (these do not fall under SAHRA’s jurisdiction) – it is very possible that the other graves also do not contain the full remains of family members – or any remains at all. The implications are extremely appalling and it is an affront to the long history of the Bapedi and their culture, which places the highest respect to their ancestors.
The Sekuruwe community has said all along that they did not give their consent for these removals, and furthermore, they did not consent to Anglo Platinum’s use of their land where the graves are located. A court case is being prepared that will challenge the legality of the lease agreement signed by the former Minister of Land Affairs which allowed Anglo Platinum to build the tailings dam on the community’s land. Approximately 1000 individual mandates have been signed by Sekuruwe community members for their attorney to pursue this case. This lease agreement that led to these removals was facilitated by the undemocratic and unaccountable Section 21 Company that operates on behalf of Anglo Platinum.
At the time of the original exhumation last year, the community demonstrated in the hundreds, trying to block exhumation of their family members’ remains. The police were called to the scene, where they shot rubber bullets at community members and arrested 47 people who were held in jail.
For more information and comment, please contact Mr. James Shiburi (Sekuruwe) 072 478 3894 or Phillopos Dolo (Jubilee Mokopane Platinum Committee) 073 789 2489.