Suspected mass grave with 100 skeletons found on farm

A SANGOMA’S vision of buried bodies has led to the unearthing of a suspected mass grave with nearly 100 skeletons on a KwaZulu-Natal sugar cane farm.

The grave, which is to be sealed off today by police, forensic investigators and anthropologists, was found on the Glenroy Farm near Dududu on the South Coast.

Forensic experts say that if there were sinister motives behind the burials, the find would possibly rank among the country’s worst human rights atrocities.

Vulamehlo mayor Thabane Dube said the graves were near old hostels on the farm, now owned by Illovo Sugar.

“[It] is huge. Several hundred square metres, filled with trees and bushes. You can see the mounds. Lots of them.

“We have not been able to speak to the owners.

“When we asked if we could view the area [the farm manager] allowed us to, but [said] management did not allow outsiders.

“We don’t know if the owners know about the mass graves if there are any.”

As a high-level investigation into the find is launched, more questions than answers are emerging about the origin, identity and reason behind the bodies’ burials.

Key to finding the answers is ensuring that the area is properly preserved.

Fears are mounting that should the skeletons – believed to be those of prison labourers from the 1960s and ’70s – be moved, the identities or causes of death will never be known.

The farm, about 70km from Durban, and other farms in the area were known for their use of prison labour during apartheid.

Private forensic investigator David Klatzow, who has been briefed on the find, said time was of the essence.

He said it had to be assumed that the grave was a crime scene.

“If they are historical graves that is one thing, but if they are more recent, as this is being punted, you must assume that those buried were done so without proper papers.

“If they were officially buried it would be marked properly and there would be official records from mortuaries and government departments.

“Importantly with a mass grave like this, the cause of death must be found.

“It is vital that bones are properly preserved so it can be determined whether violence was used.”

The National Prosecuting Authority and Department of Home Affairs will conduct a forensic investigation.

-Graeme Hosken, Shaun Smillie and Bongani Mthethwa

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