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Family row over grave

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The family of literary and struggle icon Solomon T Plaatje are at loggerheads over how his legacy should be preserved and honoured.

THE FAMILY of literary and struggle icon Solomon T Plaatje are at loggerheads over how his legacy should be preserved and honoured.

This follows after some family members on Saturday took down a fence which had been erected around Plaatje’s grave at the West End Cemetery in Kimberley.

The disgruntled family members had previously indicated that although they were consulted with regards to a fence being erected around the grave to curb vandalism, they were not informed when the work would take place.

The representative of the family members, Gopolong Spencer Plaatje, said that the gesture was culturally and legally wrong.

“We have pleaded with the government to be reasonable. What they did from a cultural point of view was wrong. Culturally, one does not dig and put a cage around a grave. Legally, when you bury someone you pay for the grave. The grave is owned by the family. The provincial Department of Sport, Arts and Culture committed a criminal act. They are not an entity that deals with heritage sites. That was a gross violation and we pleaded with them not to continue with the plan to erect a cage around the grave,” said Gopolong.

He added that the family members had raised their unhappiness with Northern Cape Premier Zamani Saul as well as the Office of the President.

“Our lawyers have written letters to the Office of the Premier and to the President. We understand that the President wants to lay a wreath on the grave during the January 8 celebrations that will take place in Kimberley. We welcome that, but the right processes need to be followed.”

He accused some parties of creating division amongst family members.

“There are those who have created a vile tension amongst the family. We have identified those responsible and will serve them with letters from our lawyers.”

Gopolong said they will also deal with organisations and institutions that have been using Plaatje’s name “illegally”.

“We will be dealing with entities who have been using the name of Sol Plaatje illegally. Things should be done the right way and those who do not possess the licensing to carry the name should not do so. Our lawyers are also busy addressing this matter.”

Meanwhile, other family members indicated that they are distancing themselves from what they called a minority family group that is against government initiatives to preserve the legacy of Plaatje.

This follows after family members removed a fence which was erected around Plaatje’s grave.

According to Obakeng Benjamin Plaatje, who is part of the other family faction, the removal of the fence was the idea of a minority of family members.

Obakeng indicated that the majority of the family welcomed all initiatives by government and other organisations to recognise Plaatje.

“There are two groups in the family, one group who is against the initiatives by the government and other institutions to preserve the memory of Sol Plaatje. That group is a minority. That is not the consensus of the entire family.

“We understand that our grandfather was not just an asset to our family but also an asset to the world. He is a world-recognised icon. Any community member or government institution who wants to promote the legacy of Sol Plaatje, we welcome such. We distance ourselves from the individuals who have been spreading negative media interviews about the family. We are not sure whether these individuals conducted these interviews for the sake of being popular,” said Obakeng.

He added that allegations that the family was not consulted by the provincial government about the plans to recognise Plaatje were untrue.

“There were meetings that took place to inform the family about how the government planned to recognise our grandfather. Prior to these, the family held internal meetings. It was only the minority group who were against the plans,”

Obakeng said that they were even consulted on the erection of the fence.

“The Heritage Council consulted us and asked us if they could erect a fence around the grave and we agreed, seeing as there was a lot of vandalism at the cemetery.

“There has been very negative feedback from the individuals who resisted the plans. What they are spreading in the media is not how we are feeling as a family and it is embarrassing, as our grandfather was a leader in the ANC and to the people. We cannot treat the organisation, which our grandfather supported and helped to build, like this. It is a slap in the face of our grandfather.”

Obakeng said that although they are distancing themselves from the actions of the disgruntled family members, they will continue to look at ways of resolving the matter amicably.

“We have apologised to the organisation. We will still engage with the unhappy family members to get a solution to this matter.”

The adviser to the Northern Cape premier, Patrick Montwedi, said that they were made aware of the incident but have given the family an opportunity to resolve the matter internally.

“We have decided to leave the matter with the family to deal with first before we give comment on it. We will engage with the family and might after that engagement speak to the media about the matter,” said Montwedi.