The cannabis growers who were hanged at Pretoria Central after being found guilty of murdering five policemen in 1956 have been hailed as heroes by the local community. Their remains will be returned from Pretoria for reburial in the KwaZulu Natal Drakensberg area that has now been legally recognized as a prime cannabis cultivation area.
The bodies of the 22 so-called Bergville Dagga Warriors executed in 1957 will be reburied in the area of birth. This was announced by Okhahlamba (Bergville) mayor Vikizitha Mlotshwa on 22 March 2023, bringing to conclusion a lengthy saga that goes to the heart of the history of South African cannabis prohibition.
The “Bergville Dagga War” was a brief skirmish between the cannabis growing community and apartheid police who were ambushed on a cannabis-eradication exercise in the remote Drakensberg mountains. Five policemen were murdered, two of whom were white, which is thought to have contributed to the severity of the sentence.
The 22 men, mostly from the Hlongwane clan, were executed on what is now Human Rights Day, 21 March, in 1957.
Mlotshwa said they had “finally won the battle” to exhume from Pretoria the remains of the men executed for their ambush of police in defence of their cannabis plantations.
He said “these men are heroes to the locals as they were the ones who started the long battle to have the dagga industry formalised since it was their livelihood”.
The culmination of the reburial was scheduled for March 31 2023 at the Bergville sports complex, just outside the town of Bergville.