Vandals exhume graves

City officials, police and family members at the graves of the late Onke Tetyana and Wiliam Stewuti Wece, on Thursday May 17, where the remains were exhumed for forensic testing and reburial.

The Tetyana and Mtakatya families from Gugulethu and Khayelitsha, respectively, have been left scrambling for answers after the graves of their relatives in the Khayelitsha cemetery were vandalised.

According to one of the families, the vandals interfered with the remains by chopping off the fingers and placing them on the legs of the deceased.

A beanie that one of the deceased was buried with, was also found outside the grave.

The damage to the graves of Onke Tetyana and Wiliam Stewuti Wece was discovered by the guards on Monday May 14.

Both had been buried on the same day in 2015, in grave sites next to each other.

Harare police spokesperson, Captain Siyabulela Vukubi, said a case of violation of a grave site had been opened and the police were investigating the matter.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith, said the City was appalled by the incidents.

He said the City had undertaken a forensic investigation into the matte but disputed claims that the remains had been tampered with.

“We can confirm that the coffins had not been disturbed and although worn and porous, as happens over time, it was clear that the perpetrators had not damaged the coffins. As part of the exhumation, the City provided new coffins for the storage of the remains,” he said.

But Nhonho Mtakatya is adamant that his father’s remains had been tampered with. He said when they arrived at the cemetery, on Monday May 14, he found his father’s hat, which he wore when they buried him, lying outside the grave.

He claimed that some pieces of the coffin were found outside the grave. He added that when City officials exhumed the body, the family discovered that fingers on his left hand had been chopped off and placed on top of his legs. He said the coffin had been opened.

Mr Mtakatya said a small hammer had also been found on the ground.

He said the City indicated that it would conduct a reburial soon, but the family had rejected that and requested a dignified burial. However, he said he was grateful that the body had not been removed from the grave.

He said the incident had opened old wounds. “We are shocked and hurt by this,” he said. “We are still clueless why the graves had been dug up. We do not know whether these people wanted to steal human parts and use them for witchcraft. We have no idea. We have never seen something like this, and as the family we are still consulting on how we should deal with the matter.”

Lindiwe Tetyana, said her son, Onke, had been shot and killed in 2015.

A weeping Ms Tetyana said for her too, the incident had opened up healing wounds. She said she did not know why the graves had been vandalised.

The 57-year-old mother of two said the City should cover the costs of reburial. “I lost my two children in 2015 and this just brings back the bad memories of how I lost them. I never thought that I would go through the same pain again in my life. We just want a small reburial,” she said.