Heritage impact assessment of ancestral graves at the Medupi Power Station completed

14 October 2015


The Medupi Graves Task Team has completed Phase II of the Heritage Impact Assessment for the Medupi Power Station development following a comprehensive public participation process.

The Task Team commissioned a second heritage assessment of the Medupi Power Station development following reports of disturbance and desecration of graves located in the construction zone of the project near Lephalale, Limpopo. The second heritage assessment was commissioned by the Department of Environmental Affairs and undertaken by an independent consultant (Mbofho consultants).

The investigation identified seven burial sites which have been disturbed or are the subject of a grievance lodged by relatives that need to be resolved, as well as seven graves and burial sites listed in terms of the National Heritage Act which are not subject to a grievance, but that require management in consultation with stakeholders. Five existing sites, including sacred pools and old settlements worth preserving, were also identified during the process.

The report states that miscommunications perhaps describe the root of the problems and the resultant resentment and suspicion on the part of some members of the local community.  The findings suggest strategies by which the local community can make a meaningful contribution in the protection of heritage resources as Medupi.

The report states in its findings that the affected families and community have articulated their views on the treatment of graves and human remains, and their views have been heard and respected throughout the research.

“The ultimate recognition for the need to conduct a deep search into the feelings and concerns of local people is regarded as a restoration of their dignity and an immensely empowering event.  The research is assurance that Eskom and all interested institutional stakeholders respect people’s sensibilities about social justice,” the report states. In addition, the report states that “all stakeholders in the Medupi case uphold the principle of respect for the dead and protection of graves”, and that the “damage or destruction suffered was accidental”.

The report recommended that a distinction be made between graves that are located outside the development area and those in the area where the power plant has been constructed, which have been accidentally disturbed or destroyed, or have been relocated.

The report has put forward recommendations, including and the protection and maintenance of graves and sacred pools, as well as the establishment, by Eskom, of a Memorial plague in memory of those buried inside the construction area. It has also recommended that in accordance with the wishes of the local community, that a cleansing ceremony be held at Medupi in respect of the graves that were disturbed or destroyed and that local communities be permitted to organise rituals and proposed shrine.

On 6 October 2015 an engagement took place at Medupi. This session was attended by the Mayor of Lephalale, the Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Mr Bulelani Magwanishe, Traditional leaders, local councillors and Eskom Group Executive (acting) Mr Abram Masango on behalf of Eskom’s Chief Executive Mr Molefe, and four of the six families that have lodged claims after family graves were found to have been disturbed or destroyed at Medupi.  The apology was extended from Eskom to the families and the community and this was accepted by the families.

Mr Magwanishe had undertaken that the actions recommended in the Heritage Impact Assessment and those put forward by the South African Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) be completed by April 2016.

To access the Medupi Power Station Development Phase II Heritage Impact Assessment click on:

>> Medupi Power Station Development Phase II Heritage Impact Assessment.

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Albi Modise
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