JOHANNESBURG, Mar 17 – South African authorities on Tuesday said they have discovered a suspected mass burial site containing around 100 bodies at a sugarcane farm near the southestern port city of Durban.
The bodies buried at the unmarked site are suspected to be those of former prison farm labourers.
The Vulamehlo municipality mayor and senior local government officials visited the farm last week and “discovered that there were indeed graves … where close to 100 people were buried,” municipality manager Msizi Zulu told AFP.
“We are not quite sure if they were buried in coffins or were just dumped there.”
A traditional sangoma, or witchdoctor was last year “prompted by the spirits about the grave” and led the authorities to the derelict site, he said.
It is not yet clear how old the burial site is and authorities have not yet started procedures to determine the identities of those buried.
Glenroy Farm, situated less than 100 kilometres south of Durban, is now owned by leading sugar conglomerate Illovo, which bought it in 1989.
A statement from a provincial cabinet meeting last week said the farm was known as having used prison farm labourers years ago.
Illovo said until now, it was unaware of the existence of the graves and “has never used, and does not use, prison labour at any of its operations”.
“We have been informed that a broken-down and derelict building, which was previously hidden … by thick and overgrown vegetation on an uncultivated section of the farm, was in fact a prison building many years ago, and that the graves recently discovered may well be those of prisoners,” said Illovo.
It said it had no knowledge on whether the prisoners may or may not have worked on the farm prior to its ownership of the property 26 years ago.