The uMzumbe municipality in KwaZulu-Natal has come to the rescue of a Mthwalume family who was devastated at the weekend after the funeral of their relative was halted by a local induna who claimed they had no right to bury anyone on the land.
Recounting the weekend's ordeal, Naledi Mkhungo told of a humiliating experience that unfolded during her sister Rosemary's funeral when the induna, Siphiwe Maluleka, under the Luthuli tribal authority, disrupted burial proceedings.
Maluleka had arrived during the funeral in the company of young men who shovelled the soil back into the open grave. One of the men in Maluleka's company asked the mourners who had given them permission for the burial.
In a video of the incident seen by TimesLIVE, a group of women are seen carrying the deceased Rosemary Mkhungo's coffin back home as the drain drizzled down.
A blanket was draped over the heavy coffin which the woman would periodically place on the muddy ground. Rosemary's remains were eventually taken by an undertaker.
“It was not a nice scene because most of the mourners were female and they were helpless when we faced the wrath of the induna,” said Naledi.
Explaining her sister's dire situation, Naledi alleged her sister’s first born, Thuthukani Khwane, 31, had saved up some money over an extended period of time to buy her a plot of land for R11,000. The deceased was yet to pay the balance of R2,430, together with a case of beer, cold drinks and a bottle of vodka, which is the payment used for a traditional ritual dubbed ukubekwa.
Rosemary died on July 20. Since then, the family had battled to come up with the funds needed for her burial and her body had been kept at a state mortuary.
The family had finally secured a sponsor for the funeral which was disrupted.
Following the incident, uMzumbe mayor Bongani Nyuswa confirmed they had secured a burial plot at a cemetery which is under Ray Nkonyeni municipality. Nyuswa would not be drawn on commenting further, saying talks were under way to assist the grieving family.
Naledi, however, said the past week’s events had not only humiliated the family, but had also been traumatic to the extent that they had also taken a toll on the last born of the family who is still at school.
Since then, Naledi claimed had been receiving threats from an unknown telephone number. She claimed she was warned about "being vocal on the matter".
“I asked the person to reveal their identity as I would not speak to someone whom I do not know,” Naledi told TimesLIVE.
Meanwhile, TimesLIVE's efforts to reach Maluleka drew a blank as his phone rang unanswered.
The matter drew the attention of the MEC of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta), Sihle Zikalala, who upon hearing about the incident called for a full investigation.
Zikalala said the Mthwalume area is not new to land-related conflicts, with some matters having necessitated legal processes.
The uMzumbe municipality has undertaken to cover the cost of Rosemary's funeral which will be held on Thursday. The burial is now scheduled to take place at Izotsha, which is further down the south coast.
Naledi said her sister had battled to raise her five children, some of whom lived away from her.
“My sister lived only with the first born and last born, with ages of 31 and 11 years respectively,” she said.
Several interventions have since been rolled out by the government to help the family. This includes the provision of counselling after the traumatic experience. The family will also be profiled in line with Operation SukumaSakhe, which will put them in line to receive an RDP house.
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