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'Close graves, save lives': What you need to know about the BLF's petition to Ramaphosa

21 July 2020 - 10:08 By Cebelihle Bhengu
BLF president Andile Mngxitama said the #CloseTheGraves campaign was launched to demand that government stop digging mass graves and save lives instead.
BLF president Andile Mngxitama said the #CloseTheGraves campaign was launched to demand that government stop digging mass graves and save lives instead.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times

Black First Land First (BLF) has launched a petition demanding that the government close graves and prioritise saving lives as Covid-19 cases continue to surge in SA.

BLF deputy Zanele Lwana told TimesLIVE on Monday that the petition will be presented to President Cyril Ramaphosa when it has received enough public backing.

This is what you need to know:

What is it about?

The BLF says “No to death, yes to life.” It says the government must strengthen its fight against Covid-19 by doing more to reduce infection and death rates.

The movement says this can be done by building more hospitals and keeping children out of school. It is also calling for the nationalisation of hospitals and pharmaceutical companies for better access to health care for all.

When it was launched

The ‘close the planned 1 million graves now’ petition was launched a week ago, after Gauteng health MEC, Bandile Masuku said the provincial government had dug 1.5 million graves as it prepares for Covid-19 mass burials.

The provincial government later denied that the graves were for Covid-19 deaths, saying “the province does not have over a million already open, dug graves, the over a million graves refers to the collective capacity municipalities can take”.

Signatories

The petition target is 2,500 signatures. As of Tuesday morning, there were over 1,700 backers who had signed the petition.

Concerns

The BLF says it is against the African custom to have open graves in anticipation of deaths. These are some of the reasons given by people who signed the petition:

Nokwanda Mkhize wrote: “You can't dig graves for people who are alive.”

Thabile Masingi says: “It is un-African to dig a grave before someone dies.”

Simphiwe Mitchell wrote: “We choose life, not death.”


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