Cabinet adopts policy to have human remains of S. Africans abroad repatriated

The Arts and Culture Department’s Vusithemba Ndima said that the policy would not only cover South African's who died abroad but would also focus on heritage objects that were stolen from the country.

FILE: Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa. Picture: @ArtsCultureSA/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - Cabinet has adopted a policy to have the human remains of South Africans abroad to be repatriated.

Arts and Culture Department officials on Tuesday briefed MPs on the policy on the management of human remains and heritage objects in museums.

Minister Nathi Mthethwa said that it should also honour those who suffered for South Africa’s freedom from outside of its borders.

The department said that the policy would help humanise South Africans who were used for racial research abroad, like Saartjie Baartman, whose remains were repatriated in 2002.

The department’s Vusithemba Ndima said that the policy would not only cover South African's who died abroad but would also focus on heritage objects that were stolen from the country.

“Basically, these people were dehumanised and this is a process of rehumanisation of these people. Similarly, many objects that are deemed sacred or important to communities that have, in the past, taken from them and sent to museums worldwide.”

But Mthethwa said not all mortal remains would be able to be repatriated to South Africa for a number of practical reasons.

The department said that government was inundated with requests to repatriate human remains kept in museums as well as the remains of South Africans in other countries.

It said that in the absence of any policy guidelines, these requests have had to be dealt with on an ad hoc basis.

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