Spirits of lives lost in struggle laid to rest

Sipho Masombuka

Sipho Masombuka

The family of ANC activist Eunice Mosele Morabe saw her grave for the first time ten days ago since she was buried in Morogoro, Tanzania, 22 years ago.

Eunice skipped the country in early 1985 to join the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), in Tanzania but died several months later in a car accident.

Eunice's spirit was one of about 120 South Africans which were collected from Tanzania and symbolically laid to rest in Pretoria on Heritage Day at Isivivane, a sacred place in Freedom Park, where the spirits of fallen struggle heroes are symbolically buried.

Eunice was 15 years old when she left the country to undergo military training.

Her 77-year-old father, David Morabe, said seeing his daughter's grave brought relief to the family because at last they know where her remains were laid to rest.

"I could feel her spirit accompanying us back home as we sat in the plane. She had always dreamt of coming back to a free South Africa. Today her dream has been fulfilled, though she did not return in her physical form.

"I thank the democratic government for striving to bring closure for us," said Morabe.

The cleansing and healing ceremony started on September 21 in accordance with the African indigenous belief that if someone dies beyond the borders of his or her country, the family should go to the site to pray.

The ritual was performed by leaders of various faiths who told the spirits that it was time to go home. Soil and stones from the site were collected as part of the ritual. The soil and stones collected from the graves were sprinkled all over Isivivane.

Nomiki Letsoalo, whose brother Andile Nteyi died in Tanzania in 1982, said: "It is better for us because we know his grave. It is worse for the families who do not know where their fallen daughters and sons are buried.

"This ritual was important because although his grave is in a foreign country, his spirit is back home to join those of fellow cadres who died fighting for the freedom we enjoy today."

Andile "Chuksie" Nteyi was a journalist working for the Cape Times when he left the country in 1981 to join MK in Tanzania.

According to his family, Nteyi died of trypanosomiasis, an infection of the central nervous system transmitted by the African tsetse fly.

On September 22, an official event, which included both South African and Tanzanian government representatives, was held at Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Mazimbu, Morogoro.

The spirits were flown to South Africa on September 24, Heritage Day.

Freedom Park was launched on June 1 2000 as a response to the need identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for symbolic reparations to those who died in the struggle for freedom.

Mongane Wally Serote, chief executive of the Freedom Park Trust, said the performance of the cleansing and healing ritual symbolised the return of the spirits of the dead where it was impossible to exhume the remains to return them home.

"Our aim with this ritual is threefold: it serves as a means to thank the people of Tanzania for acting as a surrogate to our freedom fighters during the apartheid era; it releases the spirits of those who died in exile to return home; and it introduces closure for bereaved families on their loss, which is a necessary step towards reconciliation," said Serote.

The Christianity-based ceremony was fittingly led by the Reverend Joseph Maphatsoe, who buried most of the cadres who died in Tanzania in the 1980s.

Traditional healer Stella Williams called on the spirits of Oliver Tambo, Moses Kotane, Bertha Gxowa, Adelaide Tambo and others to welcome to Isivivane the spirits of those who fell in Tanzania.