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Exactly a year since the execution by lethal injection of South African Janice Linden in China, her family is no closer to finding closure.
Instead, today is a painful reminder for the Wentworth family of a loss they are still battling to make sense of.
Despite appeals from South Africa for her death sentence to be commuted, the KwaZulu-Natal woman, who had been living in London for six years, was executed for smuggling drugs into China in 2008.
Her shocked family was later given a box containing her ashes.
“It is a very disturbing thing that when my sister left, she was alive and well and the next I am given a small box and told that it is her,” Priscilla Mthalane said yesterday, adding she sometimes wondered whether her sister was, in fact, dead.
“Her death is still a very sore point for me,” she said.
“China is another place and in another world. I will never forget the way they treated us, never.
“We begged them to, at least, let her tell us what happened but they refused and that was a very cruel thing. It has not been an easy journey.”
Mthalane said they were not even given back Linden’s clothes which they would have kept as their reminder of her.
“Not even those she was wearing when we last saw her were given to us.”
Mthalane and another sister were in China and were allowed an hour with Linden shortly before she was put to death.
In keeping with Chinese policy, however, Linden would have been made aware of her impending execution only on the morning it happened.
She was arrested in November 2008 after being found with 3kg of methamphetamine at Baiyun International Airport. Her family only found out in September 2009 that she had been arrested after receiving a call from Pretoria.
Linden was able to write letters home, but because they were monitored by the Chinese authorities she could never tell her family how she had ended up in prison.
Her execution left her family devastated, and upset at the South African government for not doing more to prevent it.
“We never ever got a chance to see her for the last time as herself. What happened to her in China really hurt us and I think that it always will,” said Mthalane’s son, Ntando.
He said the family still had many unanswered questions, like why some drug mules in China were not executed, even though they were caught with more drugs than his aunt.
“I just feel that she had no representation that side and that is why she ended up losing her life,” Ntando said. “It looks like she was all alone in that country.”
He said his mother, the last person to speak to Linden before she was executed, was still not taking her death very well.
“It still hurts her a lot and I think that it always will, because we have no closure. All we ever wanted was to know what happened on the day that she was arrested,” he said.
“We wanted to know why she was in China in the first place, but our family was denied that opportunity.”
However, some days were better than others, Ntando said. “Just a few days ago I dreamt of her (Linden) as herself and she was laughing, just like she always did. It was nice to see her smile again even though it was not in this life.”
He said there was no method of dealing with their loss, but the family was trying to cope one day at a time.
“Maybe it still has not sunk in. We just miss her and still hope that our government will one day get us the answers that we are longing for,” he said.
His mother, too, is still waiting for answers, saying she was not going to give up on finding out what happened to her sister. “It is only when I find out, then I will have peace,” said Mthalane. - Daily News