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‘Gutted’ over grave


“We will under no circumstance disrespect the cultural and traditional practices of anyone in the country.”

THE FAMILY of literary and struggle icon Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje are considering laying criminal charges and taking legal action after five holes were dug around his grave as part of a project to upgrade his tombstone at West End Cemetery, where they were apparently not consulted.

Family spokesperson Gopolong Daniel Plaatje said yesterday that it appears as if the holes were dug on Wednesday. We do not know who dug the holes. My grandfather died in 1932. We believe that it is of the utmost disrespect to the family and to the Barolong culture,” said Gopolong.

“The Plaatje family is simply gutted by this grotesque display of arrogance and disrespect. We will be considering all our options to bring this callous abuse of our family and Solomon Plaatje to a halt.”

Gopolong added that while they were aware that a fence would be erected to secure the grave from being vandalised and an inscription placed on the tombstone, the family should have been involved in deciding when work would start at the site as well as who would be appointed to do so.

“We were still in the process of holding discussions with the South African Heritage Resource Agency as well as the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture on how the upgrading project should unfold. However, the work went ahead without us being able to give input.

“There were intentions to invite President Cyril Ramaphosa to visit the grave when he comes to the city for the ANC anniversary celebrations in January. The family will be re-evaluating whether this will be allowed, given that the grave site has been desecrated.

“The family was also not requested permission for a wreath laying ceremony. It is a criminal offence to tamper with a grave. We are also intending to lay complaints with the South African Human Rights Commission and AfriForum in the interests of social cohesion.”

Gopolong stated that the dignity of the family had to be restored and safeguarded.

“We have always been humble and resolved to be realistic with our views. We have never wished to monopolise his legacy and always acted in the spirit of reconciliation and humility. However, due consideration has to be given towards following the correct procedures and preserving my grandfather’s honour. While it was previously agreed that nothing would be done without our consent, we were not involved in any discussions. We also do not wish the grave of a prominent patriarch to be used for political mileage.”

The spokesperson for the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Conrad Fortune, stated that they had met and consulted with representatives of the Plaatje family with regards to the refurbishment of the grave.

“The refurbishment of the grave falls within the department’s mandate of honouring our heroes and heroines. The department will, however, further engage with the representatives of the Plaatje family around the concerns raised and to ensure that there is no further misunderstandings around honouring Sol Plaatje,” said Fortune.

He added that the department was committed to promoting social cohesion and nation-building, as well as driving the advancement of and embracing diversity.

“We will under no circumstance disrespect the cultural and traditional practices of anyone in the country.”

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