'Why bury my nephew as a pauper?'

WORRIED: Nkosibeyiphika Gabela. Pic. Mbuzeni Zulu. 26/10/2006. © Sowetan.
WORRIED: Nkosibeyiphika Gabela. Pic. Mbuzeni Zulu. 26/10/2006. © Sowetan.

Vusi Ndlovu

Vusi Ndlovu

The family of a man who died in Johannesburg Prison and was buried a pauper is demanding to know why his relatives were not notified about his death.

The family said they only heard about Richard Mkhize's death last month, more than a year after he was buried. Mkhize's uncle, Nkosibeyiphika Gabela, said they were informed by strangers about Mkhize's death.

Mkhize is said to have died from pulmonary tuberculosis in July last year.

But the family suspects foul play because they said they do not have a death certificate to prove the cause of death.

"People we don't know came to our house in Msinga and told us about Mkhize's death. We did not even know he was in prison.

"They told us they found out about his death after inmates at Johannesburg Prison told them about his death and gave them Mkhize's ID," said Gabela.

He said he was not happy with the prison's explanation for burying his relative without the family's knowledge.

"They claim they found nobody i Alexandra, where he was living with his father. How could they go to his Alexandra home when the prison records do not have his Alexandra address?

"I want to know why they did not have his address because that could have made it easy for them to find us."

Gabela said the family wants to know why the authorities did not take Mkhize's fingerprints, which could help identify him.

"We also want to know why it took so many meetings with the Department of Correctional Services before confirming Mkhize's death.

"We were told he was buried at Avalon cemetery in Soweto."

Falakhe Mkhize, another relative, said the family cannot erect a tombstone where Mkhize is buried.

"We cannot erect a tombstone because he was buried with another person in the same grave," said Falakhe.

Department of Correctional Services' spokesman Manelisi Wolela confirmed Mkhize had died of pulmonary tuberculosis while in prison.

He said Mkhize was given a pauper's burial after officials from the Department of Correctional Services confirmed that he did not reside at the Alexandra address.

"The address turned out to be incorrect and people who stay at the address did not know him.

"We asked the owners of the house to write an affidavit to confirm that they did not know him.

"The police at Alexandra Police Station were also unable to find him at the house in Alexandra," Wolela said.