The Mbombela municipality suffered an embarrassing ordeal yesterday during the funeral of Sammy Mpatlanyane, the province's slain head of communications in the department of culture, sport and recreation.
The drama started shortly after B3 Funeral Directors had erected tents in front of an open grave.
The undertakers were told, as mourners were arriving, that the grave prepared for Mpatlanyane was reserved for "heroes" only.
The Rocky's Drift cemetery apparently has a section demarcated as a heroes' acre, where not every Tom, Dick and Harry may be buried.
The funeral was almost stopped after cemetery supervisor Jaques Nel said Mpatlanyane was no hero.
"Put the soil back into the grave because this section is for heroes only and this man was not one of the heroes," Nel told the driver of a TLB machine.
When the hearse arrived with the coffin at 9.45am, followed by mourners, there was no grave ready for the funeral.
Shocked hearse driver Phathudi Nkosi complained that it would take more than three hours to remove the tents and red carpets to the other side of the cemetery, where Nel had arranged for another grave to be dug.
"We are using elegant stuff during our funerals and to remove this can take more than three hours.
"This is the grave number we were given, but now we have to go to another one at the last minute," complained Nkosi.
Sowetan called Lassy Chiwayo, the executive mayor of Mbombela municipality, who was equally shocked by the drama.
Chiwayo instructed manager of community services Rashid Matola to ensure that the funeral went ahead as planned.
"I will get to the bottom of this embarrassing situation" Chiwayo said.
"I have given instructions that the grave meant for the burial be dug up again."
Dignitaries who attended the funeral included ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa, Deputy Minister of Communications Diana Pule, MECs Vusi Shongwe and Madala Masuku.
Mpatlanyane was shot dead in his house in Stonehenge suburb in Mbombela last Friday. No arrests have been made.