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  • Written by  SIPHO MASOMBUKA - www.timeslive.co.za
  • Published in In the News
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'Give back my dead son'

RESTLESS: Adelaide Dlamini, 85, of Mamelodi, in Tshwane. Her son, Velaphi, was killed while fighting for Umkhonto weSizwe in Angola in the 1980s. He is buried there and she has been unable to get his remains repatriated, despite promises. RESTLESS: Adelaide Dlamini, 85, of Mamelodi, in Tshwane. Her son, Velaphi, was killed while fighting for Umkhonto weSizwe in Angola in the 1980s. He is buried there and she has been unable to get his remains repatriated, despite promises. Image by: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI

Adelaide Dlamini, 85, has lost all six of her children but it is the death of her fourth, Velaphi, that cuts deepest into her heart.

"I buried all my children except for Velaphi," she said. "I am haunted by dreams [of him] asking: 'Mom, where am I?' but I have no answer for him."

The widow, who lives in Mamelodi East, Pretoria, is one of many mothers who gave the blood of their children to the struggle against apartheid but have no graves that they can visit to honour them.

Adelaide Dlamini, 85, has lost all six of her children but it is the death of her fourth, Velaphi, that cuts deepest into her heart.

Dlamini last saw her son in the autumn of 1980 when he was 23.

The day after he bade her farewell he left the country to join Umkhonto weSizwe, the ANC's military wing.

"I buried all my children except for Velaphi," she said. "I am haunted by dreams [of him] asking: 'Mom, where am I?' but I have no answer for him."

The widow, who lives in Mamelodi East, Pretoria, is one of many mothers who gave the blood of their children to the struggle against apartheid but have no graves that they can visit to honour them.

Their remains languish in foreign countries such as Lesotho, Botswana, Uganda, Swaziland and Tanzania.

In 1992, Dlamini received a letter from the ANC stating that her son died in an "Angola bombardment" on October 11 1986 and was buried in that country.

She said: "I have nothing to celebrate. I will never have peace until my son's remains are brought back home for proper burial. Remains that have not been buried properly, in a foreign country, become an evil spirit."

Dlamini said she was promised assistance in repatriating her son's remains in 2004 but nothing has happened.

Rachel Buthelezi, of Soweto, said her son, Vusi, joined MK in Angola in the 1970s and was shot dead in Angola .

She said her husband "died a broken man" in October 2009.

Buthelezi said her life's last wish was to recover her son's remains.

"I have accepted that he died but all I need are the remains because they are holding me back [from death]."

Dlamini, Buthelezi and others in their situation have turned to the Khulumani Support Group for help. The NGO, which was formed in 1995 by victims and survivors of apartheid atrocities, has compiled a list of 6800 missing people.

The chairman of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans' Association, Kebby Maphatsoe, said the ANC adopted a resolution at its 2012 Mangaung conference that the remains of all freedom fighters killed in foreign countries be repatriated.

But, he said, repatriation from Angola would be difficult because MK had landmined their camp when they left .

He said that many graves in Angola were unmarked.

TRACING THE 'DISAPPEARED' OF APARTHEID

As many as 2000 people are believed to have disappeared or were kidnapped for political reasons during apartheid-era South Africa.

Based on 472 cases identified by Khulumani Support Group, the SAP and the SADF were identified as perpetrators in 35% of disappearance cases.

Established in 2005 by the National Prosecuting Authority, the Missing Persons Task Team has the task of investigating about 500 cases of people who went missing in political circumstances between 1960 and 1994.

This was only limited to cases officially recognised by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

According to NPA spokesman Nathi Ncube, the task team has exhumed 94 sets of remains but said that in a further 45 cases it was concluded there was as yet no chance of recovering remains.

He said of the 94 exhumed remains, 74 were returned to families for burial and five had been identified and would soon be returned.

"Thirteen exhumed remains are still undergoing identification through DNA tests," he said.

How the identification of remains is done:

The task team - with the assistance of an Argentinian forensic anthropology team - analyses each case using detailed knowledge of political context and modus operandi of the perpetrators.

The team then analyses information from the TRC to develop a hypothesis about the individual's fate and identify a potential burial site.

This is followed by a DNA analysis of the remains if evidence is found.

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