Buhle Bhengu family saddened by decision to cremate her

Buhle Bhengu died in a hospital in The Bahamas.
Buhle Bhengu died in a hospital in The Bahamas.
Image: Supplied

The aunt of a KwaZulu-Natal woman who died in The Bahamas says the family is not satisfied with the claim that she died of natural causes.

Buhle Bhengu, 30, who hails from Umlazi in Durban, is believed to have fallen sick with TB and died a month ago.

She worked as a waitress on a cruise ship owned by international company MSC.

Yesterday, the department of international relations & cooperation announced that Bhengu's body would be cremated in The Bahamas because of international health standards safety concerns on her body being repatriated.

"The cremation was recommended by the local authorities in The Bahamas, citing health and safety concerns.

"Minister [Lindiwe] Sisulu has also extended her gratitude to the Bhengu family for their understanding that their daughter's mortal remains could not be repatriated to South Africa due to international health standards to which both South Africa and The Bahamas subscribe to," the department said.

However, Bhengu's family said they had not been provided with a clear picture of the circumstances surrounding her death.

Sowetan has previously reported that her family was told she was hospitalised due to stomach flu, while she told her family that she was sick due to anaemia.

The deceased's aunt, Mbali Bhengu, said they had been left with no choice but to accept the cremation of her body.

"We do not accept cremation but we are left with no choice because they will not release her body," she said.

"Cremation is not something we believe in as the Zulu people, we have rituals that we follow when someone dies.

"We need to speak to her body because it is important for communicating with her. She is still here and she needs to rest in peace. She needs to come home and rest with her ancestors."

Mbali said since the Bhengu family had been given a runaround about seeing her body, they suspected she might have died due to unnatural causes.

We need to speak to her body because it is important for communicating with her

"We have not yet received an autopsy report and I am not sure yet if the family members who went there have seen her body yet, " she said.

"My mother [Bhengu's grandmother] can't even speak. She hasn't said anything since we heard they have to cremate her," she said.

Countries including the US and the UK have refused to allow Bhengu's body to pass through their borders, citing strict health standards.

International relations spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said they would not comment on the specific health standards referred to as this wouinfringe the privacy of Bhengu's family.

Mbali said Bhengu's parents died when she was still young and she was raised in a one-roomed shack by her grandmother.

"She wanted to travel the world and help her family. She said she was doing this for her grandmother, she wanted to build her a house," Mbali said.

She said her niece was saving money from her work on the cruise to build her grandmother a house.

She said they found out from her brother Thobani, who travelled to The Bahamas with a cousin, that they had lost the battle to bring her body home.

"He was very emotional. He just wanted us to understand that he had tried and in the end he did not win," she said.

Bhengu was in The Bahamas as her cruise ship had docked in the country.