Old atrocity finally set to be laid to rest

NPA task team member Claudia Bisso hands over parts of the remains at the Old Winterveld Cemetery in Tshwane.
NPA task team member Claudia Bisso hands over parts of the remains at the Old Winterveld Cemetery in Tshwane.
Image: Penwell Dlamini

There was joy as the remains of the last victim of the Mamelodi 10 were exhumed at the Old Winterveld Cemetery in Pretoria yesterday after 14 years of investigations.

Families of the Mamelodi 10 sat for hours in the scorching sun as investigators retrieved the remains of Jeremiah Ntuli, who was killed by the apartheid government in the most ruthless fashion.

What was left of the remains was some teeth, left humerus, pelvis, left and right femurs and left and right small tibia fragments.

Ntuli, Samuel Masilela, Sipho Phillip Sibanyoni, Elliot Sathekge, Jeremiah Magagula, Thomas Phiri, Morris Kabini [Nkabinde], Rooibaard Geldenhuys, Abram Makolane and Stephen Makena make up the Mamelodi 10.

Jeremiah's mother, Maria Ntuli, 86, sat not far from the grave with just a smile on her face. "I no longer have any pain. I am at peace," she said.

On June 26 1986, 10 teenagers from Mamelodi were lured to their deaths in a joint operation by members of the Northern and Western Transvaal Security Branch and the SADF's Special Forces.

Security police agent Joe Mamasela collected the teenagers in a minibus by pretending to be an MK member taking them into exile.

Instead, he drove them into the bushes near Zeerust where they were surrounded by security forces.

The teenagers were made to lie on the ground and injected by special force members with an unknown substance which made them unconscious.

They were then placed in another minibus and an accident was faked.

The vehicle was set alight and the teenagers were burnt to death.

Their charred bodies were found by locals and they were buried as paupers.

The families of the 10 assumed they had gone into exile. It was only during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) amnesty processes that the families learnt the truth.

Eight operatives from then SADF Special Forces, Northern and Western Transvaal Security Branches applied for and were granted amnesty for the operation by the TRC.

The parents of the Mamelodi 10 then searched for their remains for many years themselves, without success.

In 2005, the Missing Persons Task Team in the National Prosecuting Authority conducted investigations that led to the Old Winterveld Cemetery.

A drone was flown over the cemetery to take images of the graveyard. A map was then produced and the team focused on the section with unmarked graves between 1985 and 1987 to locate the grave.

Claudia Bisso, a member of the Missing Persons Task Team said it was difficult to find the grave as some had been buried randomly on what used to be paths but evidence gathered from previous discoveries by the task team was used to track down the last grave.

Forensic tests will be conducted on the remains and they will then be handed over the families for burial.

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