Row erupts as Stuurman family demand DNA test for one of UCT's skeletons

Family Representatives (from left, Alfred Stuurman and Sensa Mietas). Picture: Supplied

Family Representatives (from left, Alfred Stuurman and Sensa Mietas). Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 20, 2019


Cape Town - A row has erupted over one of the sets of skeletal remains that UCT intends to rebury in Sutherland on Heritage Day.

An Eastern Cape branch of the Stuurman family claim they could be related to the Stuurman skeleton and have asked UCT to do a DNA comparison “to determine who is family and who is not.”

The Stuurman skeleton is part of nine sets of skeletal remains that UCT wants to return to their descendants in Sutherland as the university believes that they were “obtained unethically” during the 19th century.

Johan Lesley Prince, a Stuurman descendant from Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, said UCT did not want to work with the Stuurman families in other parts of South Africa.

“We can’t just assume that the family of Sutherland is the only family that could be related to the Klaas Stuurman in question,” Prince said.

Prince, the vice-chairperson of the Stuurman Family Clan Council of the Eastern Cape, said he asked the university to do a DNA comparison “to determine who is family or not”.

“The UCT deputy vice-chancellor for transformation, Loretta Feris, refused. I don’t know what she’s afraid of.”

He said UCT still had to prove to the rest of the Stuurman families in the country that “these sacred remains belong to the Stuurmans of Sutherland”.

“We all know that the original place of the Stuurmans is Gamtoos in the Eastern Cape.

“The mother of Anthony Mietas made it clear during engagements that her father Jesaia Stuurman is from the Eastern Cape. I am not convinced that the Stuurman Family of Sutherland are the only people that could probably be descendants of the Klaas Stuurman in question,” said Prince.

“If UCT is honest about this whole story, why don’t they just take random DNA samples of all Stuurmans across South Africa and compare them with these sacred remains? I think that UCT and the Sutherland Stuurman family are afraid they will fail the test.

“In terms of South African law, those who allege must prove. If UCT and the Sutherland Stuurmans are of the opinion that the sacred remains belong to them, we’ve got the remains so let’s compare DNA.”

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said following their public call for any possible descendants, two groups of Stuurman families contacted UCT and also attended the last public engagement in Sutherland in May.

“Prior to the public meeting, Feris extended an invitation to both groups to meet with the UCT delegation.

“One group agreed to the meeting, while the other declined the invitation. Out of the engagement with the one group, it emerged through the evidence presented and discussed that this family was not directly related to those whose remains are to be reburied in Sutherland. The other group was unable to provide proof that they are linked to the Stuurmans in Sutherland.

“There is a DNA component to this process. The results have not been finalised yet. The DNA studies focus on the relationship between the nine individuals,” Moholola said.

He said UCT submitted a reburial application to the SA Heritage Resources Agency and was awaiting permission.

“The reburial date is earmarked for September 24,” Moholola said.


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Cape Argus

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