Dignified funeral for pensioner, 85, killed on his bicycle

Mhlaba Memela

A pensioner riding a bicycle when he was hit and killed by a vehicle being towed by a truck will receive a dignified funeral.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development has offered to pay the funeral costs.

Robert Shabalala, 85, was knocked down and killed on Monday morning on the road between Newcastle and Utrecht innorthern KwaZulu-Natal.

He was on his way to collect his pension at the local farmers' hall.

The accident happened when a vehicle being towed by a tow truck veered, hit Shabalala from behind and dragged him along the road.

His bicycle was wedged on the left fender of the towed vehicle.

The police's Captain Shooz Magudulela said Shabalala was killed instantly when the vehicle hit him.

"My father was very old and he was blessed by God to reach that age," said Sabelo Shabalala, a police inspector.

"It is a trauma to all of us that he died so painfully."

Shabalala said his father had done everything for his family, despite his age.

"My father has been very strong.

"His bicycle was his friend and he used it because there is no transport to take people from the farm to town," he said.

The mayor of Newcastle, Phumzile Mbatha-Cele, has told the family that the provincial government will contribute to Robert Shabalala's funeral costs.

She told Shabalala's widow, Rosta, 74, that Meshack Hadebe, the MEC for social welfare, had decided to help the family after he heard that her husband had died so painfully on his way to collect his pension.

"It's very painful for the elderly to die so badly after many years of being protected by God," Hadebe said.

"Shabalala deserves a privileged funeral."