Minister Zweli Mkhize was the leader of the cell that the two exhumed cadres belonged to.Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association, KwaZulu-Natal, chairperson Themba Mavundla is urging the ANC-led government to posthumously honour two MK operatives, whose exhumed remains were officially handed over to their families on Saturday, with South African military ranks.

The remains of the two MK operatives, Mfaniseni Mdlalose and Mandla Mjwara, were positively identified by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s missing persons unit 31 years after they disappeared in 1987.

They operated in KwaZulu-Natal in a cell under current Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize.

He was among several senior government officials who attended the official handover of the exhumed remains at the Durban City Hall yesterday.

Mjwara, from Underberg, was 22 years old at the time of his disappearance, while Mdlalose, from Chesterville, was 33.

Mjwara was buried on Saturday at Redhill Cemetery in the north of Durban, while Mdlalose will be buried at the Wiggins Road Cemetery in Chesterville on September 29.

Paying tribute to the two, Mavundla said: “Mandla Mjwara and Comrade Mfaniseni Mdlalose should be ranked as soldiers, with force numbers, so their families and loved ones can receive benefits.”

He said that Mdlalose and Mjwara had fought for the freedom of millions of oppressed South Africans and therefore their families deserved to enjoy the benefits of the contribution they had made towards the country’s liberation.

“It’s a request we’re making to the ANC and its alliance partners that the government must ensure that these comrades get ranks," Mavundla said.

“It should not be that we give the families these soldiers' remains and nothing more,” he said.

Mkhize urged the missing persons unit to continue digging up liberation struggle heroes who disappeared without trace.

“Today, for us, is a celebration because our soldiers are back from battle. They won the fight as the country is now under democratic forces and their fight was not in vain.

“They come back as conquerors, they come back as victors and they come back to be part of the celebration that their mission was fulfilled because South Africa is free.

“For that we have to honour the role they played and their contributions,” Mkhize said.

Sipho Mjwara, Mandla Mjwara’s brother, said the family was relieved that the remains of their loved one had been returned because they had tried for many years to get closure.

“It’s sad that he is no longer alive, but this will give us closure as a family after so many years of uncertainty,” Mjwara said.

Faith Mdluli, a relative of Mdlalose’s, said that the family had never stopped looking for him.

“We thought he died in exile because he did not come back home. Although we’re now at ease, knowing where his remains are, it is still a very sad day for us,” Mdluli said.

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Sunday Independent