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Widow leads police to grave

Elizabeth Mokoena, an ordinary, uneducated grandmother, did the incredible. She led police to the site where she believed her husband, an ANC member who disappeared in 1993, was buried. And exactly where she told them to look, they found the remains of a man.

Now Mokoena and her two sons are waiting with bated breath for DNA results to confirm that the remains are indeed those of her beloved "Baba" (father).

"I am happy to go and bury my husband's bones properly and honour him," said Mokoena.

"Now my children can also honour their father."

With little sympathy from the authorities, the widow from Sebokeng, in southern Gauteng, turned herself into a sleuth. She joined the Khulumani Support Group - started by survivors and families of victims of apartheid - in 1995 and learnt to search for information.

National director of the Khulumani Support Group Marjorie Jobson said they had developed "flow charts" to guide people and educate them about the law and what processes to follow.

"Ordinary citizens don't realise how far they can go and at what point you open a case with the police and at what point you go to the National Prosecuting Authority .One of the steps is to go to the library and search the newspaper archives."

Mokoena was just six years old when a farmer appeared on the family's doorstep with her father's bloody clothes to announce that "he was killed by the tractor he was driving". Her life was to mirror that of her mother.

The last time Mokoena saw her husband, David, 41 at the time, was on August 29 1993. A driver for a company in Germiston, east of Johannesburg, he had left for work wearing jeans, an ANC T-shirt and blue overalls.

Jobson said: "The story goes that the security police abducted him from his workplace because often business owners would inform [them] if they were aware of staff being politically active."

That morning, Mokoena packed food and his clothing for the week.

"Two weeks later, Baba had not returned and had not called. He was supposed to send money two days later, but that did not happen. That was not like him and I got worried," said Mokoena.

When she heard that his truck had been driven by someone else, she had gone to the company's offices with her sons, aged four and 19 at the time, to make inquiries.

"I was treated horribly and my younger son kept pointing at his father's car parked in the yard. That's when I suspected the company had everything to do with his disappearance."

Mokoena's investigation kicked into full gear after she joined Khulumani. She found not only her husband's body but helped find the ashes of Buti Mqakelana, who disappeared in 1992.

After the Truth and Reconciliation Commission closed its hearings in 1998, it recommended that the government trace the whereabouts of people who had disappeared in political circumstances between 1960 and 1994. A list of about 500 people was drawn up.

Today, a missing persons' task team headed by Madeleine Fullard is searching for them. So far 83 bodies have been exhumed and 15 are undergoing final identification.

Fullard and her team have done "hundreds and hundreds" of excavations". Though they work from the TRC list, many families have come forward with other "legitimate" cases, Fullard said.

The TRC process required people to issue a statement. Thereafter the commission would verify them. But Jobson said many South Africans were unaware of this. Her organisation has called on the government to reopen victim registrations. It has also compiled its own list of 6800 missing people.

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