The fight to prevent a mall being built on the graves of loved ones

Dalphine Tagwireyi

A family in Marite, Bushbuckridge have fought for the past 12 years to halt the construction of a R200 million shopping mall.

This is because the mall is set to be built where their family graves are located and the family refuses to have the graves exhumed and their ancestors reburied elsewhere.

The family lost their home in 2018 after community members burnt it down, but they have stood firm with their decision not to move the graves.

Family spokesperson Sipho Manzini said they have since moved away from Marite.

“Our family was left homeless after our home was torched by the community and it’s evident that this involves people with authority. We had to move away as we feared for our lives,” he said.

Manzini said that according to their traditional beliefs, it is taboo to exhume and relocate graves.

However Chief Mathupha Mokoena of the Mathibela Tribal Council has said the construction of the shopping complex will finally commence soon, despite the Manzini family issues.

“The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development will facilitate negotiations with the Manzini family even though they have in the past refused to accept compensation and to sign documents that would authorise developers to exhume the graves,” he said.

Land developer Norah Fakude said that they are ready for construction to take place but will await approval from the department.

She said the project will create 800 jobs in the area.

A community member from Marite said the Manzini family is depriving them of a chance for employment and development for the impoverished community.

“What they are doing is selfish. They are only thinking of themselves,” he said. “This led frustrated community members to torch their home but they still didn’t budge. We need jobs to fend for ourselves as the R350 grant is not enough.”