100 Bodies Found in Mass Graves on S. Africa Farm
Residents say farmer used prison laborers decades ago
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2015 1:48 PM CDT
File photo of police in Durban, South Africa.   (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

(Newser) – An oral history project about the South African town of Dududu has turned up a dark secret from the past: the discovery of about 100 bodies in unmarked graves in what is now a sugarcane farm. The investigation is continuing, but the best guess is that they were prison laborers who worked at the farm decades ago, reports AFP. The farm is now run by the sugarcane conglomerate Illovo, which bought it in 1989. As the Independent of South Africa reports, old-timers say that the previous farm owner, now deceased, is believed to have had the prisoners trucked in from nearby Durban, though the exact circumstances are unclear.

“Growing up, we knew there were prisoners working there," says one woman. "They served their sentences there and when it was over, they would be dealt with and buried there.” Stories differ on whether the prisoners were buried in their old age or whether they were killed well before then, and authorities hope that the investigation of the three mass graves will yield answers. They came to light when a witchdoctor being interviewed for an oral history project spoke of "restless spirits" at the site, and a dig commenced.