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Another Upington 26 trialist dies


55-year-old Sarel Jacobs is the latest Upington 26 trialist who has passed away.

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ANOTHER Upington trialist has died, leaving only 11 remaining survivors out of the original 26 liberation struggle prisoners who were convicted of the crowd killing of a municipal police officer in Paballelo, Upington in 1985.

Fourteen of the trialists were sentenced to death in 1985 after 25 trialists were convicted of murder on the basis of common doctrine. The 26th person was convicted of attempted murder.

Their sentences were overturned on appeal in 1991 following an international outcry. Most of the accused were served with prison sentences and later released as political prisoners in the early 1990s.

The spokesperson for the Northern Cape Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Morapedi Sekhoane, said on Wednesday that Sarel Jacobs, 55, had died.

Jacobs’ passing follows the death of another trialist, David Lekanyana, last month and Zuko Xabendlini in May.

“Jacobs was arrested in Upington, Northern Cape, on December 3, 1985. He spent long periods in custody during the trial of the Upington 26. At the conclusion of the trial he was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, which was eventually overturned on appeal,” said Sekhoane.

He said that Jacobs was born on August 30, 1966 and attended Oranje Oewer Primary School in Progress where he finished Standard 5.

“He began his working life as a contractor at a local blasting construction company in Paballelo. Like many young people in the area he was a member of the Paballelo Youth Organisation. He was actively involved in the mobilisation and distribution of pamphlets and kept student leaders informed of the venues for their secret meetings.

“He spent most of his time (in later years) on community projects, organising children from the community in cleaning projects undertaken in collaboration with the provincial Department of Nature Conservation and Environmental Affairs.”

Sekhoane said that Jacobs was survived by his wife and children.

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