Plan to return chief’s bones to spur heritage

Yoliswa Sobuwa

MORE than 180 years after his death the remains of Eastern Cape Khoi chief Dawid Stuurman will be brought back to South Africa.

At a meeting at the Opera House in Port Elizabeth yesterday, it was decided that Stuurman’s remains be returned before May next year.

The meeting was attended by Nelson Mandela Bay city manager Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela, National Heritage Council (NHC) chief executive Advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa and MPL Christian Martin.

The NHC said it was investigating reports that Stuurman’s grave could be at an Australian railway station.

“We are planning to bring back his bones before April 27 next year, as SA will be celebrating 20 years of freedom,” Mancotywa said.

But it would be a difficult task with all the legal requirements.

“There are heritage protocols expressed by international conventions that are also to be observed by SA,” Mancotywa said.

Another challenge would be to positively identify the remains.

Council members were also tracing Stuurman’s footprints in South Africa to make them heritage sites. And there were plans to rename streets and towns in the Eastern Cape after Stuurman.

“These days the youth have lost their heritage because they want to look more like Europeans. Bringing his remains back will help rectify this,” Martin said.

He made a public vow not to comb or cut his hair until the remains returned to the Bay.

Born around 1773 near the Gamtoos River, Stuurman is widely recognised as the last rebel Khoi chief to resist colonialism. He lived an adventurous life, which included time spent in Bethelsdorp.

Stuurman was also a prisoner on Robben Island, where he escaped twice and was exiled to Australia.

He was incarcerated there for his persistent fight against colonialism as early as 1808 and died in an Australian hospital in 1830 after travelling on a convict ship to the continent.

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