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Families hope for closure after loved ones reburied in dry graves

By Boitumelo Tshehle - North West Correspondent | 2017-06-20 16:55:38.0

A year and four months after Mmapula Modise was buried in a North West cemetery, her family had to watch again as her remains were exhumed and reburied yesterday.

Modise was one of 47 people whose bodies had been buried at the extended section of Ventersdorp cemetery which was found to be waterlogged in February last year.

Affected families approached the municipality following the incident, and requested that the remains of their loved ones be relocated to a dry place.

They later reported it to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) after they were not happy with the time taken by the municipality to resolve the issue.

In March this year, the CRL recommended that the bodies of willing affected families be relocated .

Of 47 graves, only 30 family members agreed to have their loved ones exhumed and reburied.

Yesterday, the first five were exhumed and reburied.

Mmapula's sister Kedibone said she was happy Mmapula would rest in peace, even though the reburial was prolonged for over a year.

Kedibone arrived at the cemetery with her nephew, Ike Genu, at 7am to perform a ritual. They poured snuff on top of the grave and started talking.

She said it was their way to let Mmapula know that she would be removed from the wetland and be reburied in dry land.

There were no congregants singing church hymns as is usually the case with burials.

Mmapula's body was exhumed just before 11am and moved to the main section of the Ventersdorp cemetery.

Genu said his aunt worked as a shop assistant in Ventersdorp. "She was ill for a very long time and we had to transport her from Ventersdorp to Potchefstroom every week for treatment until her death," Genu said.

He said the family had received the news that the graves were flooded a day after they buried his aunt.

"This makes me furious. What we saw on that day was horrible. I can see that the land looks dry now but we still have flashbacks of what we saw," he said.

He blamed the municipality for taking a long time to relocate the bodies.

Piet Mahalepa's family also witnessed their nephew Kabelo Mahalepa being dug out and reburied in a new grave.

A grade 10 pupil, Kabelo died when he was 16 years old after a short illness.

"We were expecting a lot from him,"Mahalepa said, adding he was called to identify and verify the body.

"He was planning to study civil engineering after completing matric."

 

Mahalepa, like the Modises, also arrived early to perform a ritual to "inform my nephew" about the move.

"I saw him; he still has flesh. I hope I will have peace in my heart knowing that he is now laid in a dignified place."

It took about an hour to exhume and rebury each person. Family members, pathologists and selected people were the only ones allowed to be around the graves which were covered with black plastic sheets during the exhumation.

Mayoral spokesman Victor Boqo said the municipality spent over R300000 for the exhumation and reburial.

He said they started with the five and would continue today with other bodies. He said the process would take two weeks, adding the municipality would still use the site for burials in future.

"There is nothing wrong with this land and we will use it for future burials," Boqo said.

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