Funeral attendance up to families, cultural beliefs

Professor Pitika Ntuli asks what if the deceased had plans to marry a second wife but the family didn't know.
Professor Pitika Ntuli asks what if the deceased had plans to marry a second wife but the family didn't know.
Image: Bafana Mahlangu

As thousands of mourners flock to Heroes Acres at Westpark Cemetery on Sunday to pay their last tribute to hip-hop star and Dankie San hitmaker Prokid, real name Linda Mkhize; his lover and the woman in whose arms he died has been shunned.

Prokid spent his last moments with his side chick Mandisa Mbanjwa at her rented flat in the Joburg CBD last week.

Mbanjwa opened up about the star's last moment to Sunday World last week, prompting a huge social media response about whether it was appropriate or not for her to speak out.

In some African cultures and beliefs, a nyatsi such as Mbanjwa cannot attend the funeral of the man they were sleeping with because bad luck will befall them.

As the couple usually conduct their illicit affair in the cloak of darkness or in secret, it is believed to be highly inappropriate and indecent for a secret lover to emerge and seek acknowledgement during the burial of their lover. Most traditions forbid it and even threaten that a lover who insists on attending the funeral would be punished by ancestors, perhaps as a way to discourage burials turning into spectacles.

Sunday World spoke to cultural experts about the issue.

Professor Pikita Ntuli said whether a nyatsi attended a funeral of their boyfriend or not is treated differently depending on the families and cultural beliefs.

However, Ntuli said when a person dies away from home, his/her spirit must be taken from where they died and in this instance, the nyatsi must be there to allow the success of the ritual.

"In some families, they believe the nyatsi must be present to help the deceased rest in peace and for closure. If, for example, the parents knew about the nyatsi, they can't block her from attending," Ntuli said.

Another example Ntuli gave was that when a person is killed, some families may even invite the killers to the funeral as part of finding closure.

"When my brother died, my mother decided to invite his killers to the funeral to give us closure," Ntuli said.

"What if he wanted to marry a second wife but the family didn't know about his plans?"

Dr Mathole Motshekga of Kara Heritage Institute supported Ntuli's views about a possibility that the deceased may have had plans to marry his nyatsi as a second wife.

"Even the law allows men to marry more than one wife. People look down on their culture in favour of the Western tradition," said Motshekga.

"We are a lost generation" he added, saying that this is a highly sensitive matter yet the truth is that people have abandoned their cultures with even cultural custodians having deviated from their traditions.

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