A coffin bearing the remains of General Arlindo Chenda Pena made its exit out of South Africa to his home country of Angola for his final burial.
Nicknamed “Ben-Ben”, Pena served as a military commander in an Angolan opposition party, the Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).
Pena was the nephew to the President of UNITA, Jonas Savimbi.
At the time of his death 20 years ago, Pena was the Angolan former Deputy Chief of Staff.
He died in South Africa in October 1998 while receiving treatment for malaria.
At the request of President Cyril Ramaphosa, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha attended and addressed the Angolan government’s special repatriation ceremony at Waterkloof Air Force Base, in Pretoria.
“South Africa and Angola are two countries that have emerged from difficult political conflict that cost many lives in the past. Both countries continue to seek ways through which to recover from those conflicts and to build reconciliation and national unity.
“The recovery of the remains of those who perished in the conflict and the return to their families for proper burial is an important step towards this national reconciliation and unity,” said Masutha.
The Savimbi family attended the ceremony and looked on as their son’s remains were lifted and carried by Generals of the Angolan armed forces into an aircraft heading for Angola.
Pena’s repatriation comes after Angolan President, Joao Lourenco made an undertaking to give recognition to Angolans who fought in the anti-colonial struggle for liberation.
President Ramaphosa agreed to assist and support efforts by the Angolan government to greater peace, reconciliation and unity.
Masutha’s Angolan counterpart, Francisco Queiroz thanked the South African government, adding that the ceremony was vested with great dignity towards the memory of Pena and the honour of the Angolan nation.
“The repatriation corresponds to the will of President Lourenco with the sense that it will reconcile the great Angolan family and reinforce unity amongst all Angolans,” he said.
The Presidency’s advisor on International Relations, Khulu Mbatha, said the repatriation ceremony will assist to forge greater ties between the two countries.
“Angola is an important partner in SADC and therefore we should strengthen our relations,” said Mbatha.
Special security advisor to the President, Charles Nqakula, said the event is an effort by South Africa to thank Angola for its role in the fight against apartheid.
“This ceremony is part of our attempt as South Africans in thanking the Angolans for having shown such great solidarity during the struggle of our people.
“This is an effort to ensure that the African continent becomes a continent where peace, security, stability, democracy and reconciliation becomes a hallmark about how we as Africans can lead our people on the continent.”
In closing the ceremony, UNITA spokesperson Alcides Sakala announced that Pena will be buried in his home village in Angola on Saturday, 22 September 2018.