Undertaker in a bitter burial rights dispute

A Khayelitsha family have accused an undertaker of illegally opening this grave.

The Wangqutywa family from Khayelitsha have accused Nothemba Funeral and Financial Service of illegally digging up Mlindi Wangqutywa’s grave, at the Khayelitsha cemetery, to bury his wife, Boniswa.

Nothemba, however, say they merely acted on family’s request.

In an emotional interview with Vukani on Friday January 13, Phumla Wangqutywa, said she had nearly fainted when she discovered that her eldest brother’s grave had been opened.

She told Vukani that family members regularly visited the grave, but when she had gone there the week before Christmas, she found both the stone slab and headstone had been removed. She said she immediately told her relatives and later learnt that Nothemba had removed the stone and slab.

Upon further investigation, she said, it emerged that the instruction had come from their in-laws.

“We were informed by the family of our in-laws that our brother’s wife, Boniswa had died, and they had dug up the grave in order to bury her on top of her husband. We were aware that when our brother died in 2012, his wife said she wanted to be buried on top of her husband.

“The problem that we have is that Nothemba did not consult with us prior to digging our brother’s grave. The grave belongs to us,” she said.

Ms Wangqutywa said she had contacted Nothemba to resolve the matter, but they had been rude to her. She said what hurt her the most was that the family were busy preparing to exhume Mr Wangqutywa’s remains for re-burial in the Eastern Cape.

Owner of Nothemba, Sindi Qhamane, however, vehemently denied opening the grave without following the proper procedures. He said they had been asked by the family of the late Mr Wangqutywa’s wife to open the grave.

“We wrote an application letter to City Parks informing them about what we were about to do. And because we were approached by the family to bury the wife of Mr Wangqutywa next to him and there was no reason for us to investigate who the grave belonged to. We then dug the grave under the authorisation of the family members,” he explained.

Mr Qhamane said they had been shocked wto get a call from the City, the day before the funeral, instructing them to refrain from using the grave.

Boniswa’s sister, Nombulelo Dlakomo, confirmed that they had hired the company to dig the grave, saying they were merely carrying out her sister’s wish of being buried in the same grave as her husband.

“We have done nothing wrong, and both families knew that my sister wanted to be buried on top of her late husband. We were shocked when we were told at the last minute that we wouldn’t be able to bury my sister in that grave,” she said.

Mayoral committee member for social services and safety, JP Smith, said Andiswa Wangqutywa (the niece of Phumla Wangqutywa) had “exclusive right of burial” to Mr Wanqutywa’s grave. He said the burial application had been done by the undertaker, and the person who signed at the time was Andiswa, who was therefore the rightful “owner” of the rights to future burials or exhumations within this grave.

“An exhumation of the late Mlindi has been applied for by the deceased’s sister. However, the City awaits a further affidavit and supporting documentation before this may be submitted to the provincial authority for approval, “ he said.