The exhumed human remains of 12 United Democratic Front (UDF) political prisoners who were hanged during apartheid at the Kgosi Mapuru Prison have finally been laid to rest in Port Elizabeth.

The remains of the men were handed back to their families earlier this week.

It is part of the gallows project which entails the exhumation, handover and reburial of the remains of 83 political prisoners who were executed at Kgosi Mampuru gallows and buried in unmarked graves.

After years of mourning family members now have closure. The brother of Thobile Lloyd, Thandile, has peace of mind now. “After 29 years of waiting we have closure now we can tell the children where the graves of his father is, next to me on my right is his daughters and he can go to the grave to talk to his father because we believe his spirit is still alive.”

That is also the case for Mxolisi Gitywa, a realtive of Zweli Mjekula. “To have the remains is to know where they are going to be buried, so that whoever wants to visit the grave including grandchildren, they can go there.”

During the apartheid era many men and children fled the Eastern Cape to fight against segregation.

Bicks Ndoni from the ANC in Port Elizabeth says the Eastern Cape is the home of veterans. “Many young ones died and many of the people in this area of Nelson Mandela Bay fled… they went to exile… it is one area where there are many people who left the country and went into exile, in the whole country numbers came from this region its area that really fiercely contested the apartheid regime.”

It was a bittersweet day for Mthuthuzeli Ngqandu who marks his sentencing anniversary today. He shared death row with some of these men. “I can’t express my feelings now about how I fell for my comrades because I was one of them. I was sentenced on this day and it’s the day that they are buried now, I am happy, I am angry, I have mixed feelings but I am happy that their bones are back home now.”

A total of 130 political prisoners were hanged at the gallows between 1960 and 1990. Out of the 83 remains of prisoners that were hanged at the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre, 37 have been exhumed with 46 still outstanding.

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