New UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng Photo: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA)
UCT says it is in the process of returning the remains of nine people found in their archives to their descendants.

This is part of furthering transformation and redressing past injustices, according to the institution.

The skeletal remains were traced to belong to a Sutherland family, said UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

She said they had limited documentation for the skeletons, but that the people died in the 19th century and at least nine of them probably were Khoi, who were captured and forced to work as slaves on a farm in the Northern Cape.

UCT senior lecturer Dr Victoria Gibbon said the remains were brought in by a person named CG Coetzee of the Kruisrivier farm in the 1920s.

“There are 11 remains and the nine we are focusing on are from Sutherland. Eight of them come from one farm and they were brought here by the great-grandson of the original farm owner who did not live in the time they lived.

“They lived, worked and died on the farm and were laid to rest on the farm. For some reason in the 1920s he dug them up and brought them here,” Gibbon said. 

She said she would start examining the remains to be able to provide a biological report.

“We have not looked at them. We only met with the families a week ago on October 1. The only information we have is from the person who brought them and we are not sure how accurate it is.”

She said the remains consist of four male, two female, two children and one unknown.

“In terms of the cause of death the family was very interested in that, and there is not a lot of information in the records but it suggests one was ill; children would have died of illness around that time, so I would argue that is why. One had tetanus, two were elderly and one the records show they may have been killed.”

Sensa Mietas, a family representative came along with her uncle Alfred Stuurman and they both said they were happy to be part of the process to return the remains. They said families would often wonder about who their ancestors were and where they came from.

“I think at this moment we feel very happy and we are satisfied that the remains have been found and that the rightful family has been found,” Mietas said.