Paupers’ burials, not poachers’ burials

In a spat between the EFF and SANParks about burials in Bushbuckridge, the EFF said their encouragement in communities of rather taking land than money in respect of land claims are encouraging the ANC to try and score political points in the area. A total of 17 land claims were lodged on the Kruger National Park by the initial cut-off date of 31 December 1998 for lodgement of claims. Eighteen years later these land claimants received a total amount of R84 million in 2016.

BUSHBUCKRIDGE – SANParks has already a while ago rejected claims by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) that the remains of people found in a graveyard in Bushbuckridge are those of dead poachers killed in the Kruger National Park (KNP).

“The allegations are devoid of substance,” said Mr William Mabasa, acting head of communications of SANParks, at the time.

Lowvelder asked Mr Dumisane Mulamele, spokesperson for the Mpumalanga Department of Health, how the confusion could have come about.

He confirmed to Lowvelder that the bodies are those of 12 persons who were accorded paupers’ funerals in accordance with the department’s protocols.

They were buried on the same day (12 March) in the Saselani-graveyard in Bushbuckridge.

“The deceased died of both natural and unnatural causes in provincial hospitals from 2013 to 2015,”said Mulamele.

He explained that provincial hospitals are given seven days to find deceased patients’ next of kin. If nobody has come forward to identify the bodies after that time, the bodies are handed over to the SAPS.

The SAPS then use methods like the radio to find the next of kin. If, after 31 days, the bodies are still unclaimed, affidavits are made to this extent and permission is given to a local municipality to bury the bodies.

Individual graves are then identified and burials are undertaken by the local authority.

It seems that community leaders were not told why the burials took place and it was not made clear that it was paupers’ burials.

A few days after the burials, EFF Bushbuckridge whip, Mr Rhulani Qhibi, allegedly made a statement that the bodies buried were those of dead poachers who trespassed in the KNP.

However, Mr Cyril Chuene, EFF councillor, told Lowvelder that they made no such allegations.

“It would be inhumane of us to do something like that. It is not in the culture of the EFF. There is no truth in these allegations that we are spreading such rumours,” said Chuene.

“The ANC see us as threat in those communities, because we are saying to the chiefs we want a speedy recovery of all land claims and especially also those members of communities who have already made land claims in the KNP. We are encouraging not to take the compensation offered, like in 2016, but to claim the land,” Chuene explained.

READ about Kruger land claims paid out to the amount of R84 million

READ what Kruger managing executive says about land claims in the Kruger

Elize Parker
Environmental Journalist Lowvelder

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