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Burial space stolen in Bulawayo

by Staff reporter
18 Aug 2021 at 06:43hrs | Views
Bulawayo City Council is investigating possible theft of reserved burial space at Athlone Cemetery after the family of a 103-year-old man had to endure the horror of finding human remains in his and two other graves which had been offered as replacements.

Bulawayo town clerk Mr Christopher Dube yesterday said the investigation will establish whether workers were stealing reserved graves and selling them, while some senior council officials said it was possible that a criminal syndicate was killing people and burying them at Athlone Cemetery.

The issue came to light when Mr Jani John Ngulube, who died at Mater Dei Hospital on Friday, could not be buried as there were remains in his reserved grave. He had paid the local authority for the grave about 20 years ago.

When family members started burial arrangements last Saturday, it was a foregone conclusion that Mr Ngulube would be buried in the grave that he had chosen and had paid for diligently over the years. However, someone else had already been buried in the grave. The family had to endure the horror of being allocated two other reserved graves over two days, which were also found with remains inside. They had to shuttle between the mortuary and the cemetery with Mr Ngulube's body as the burial kept being postponed.

Narrating their ordeal, family spokesperson, Mr Ngulube's son, Junior, said: "On Sunday we had arranged everything so that we bury my father in his reserved grave, number 333B at the old Anglican Section at Athlone Cemetery. When we got there, we looked around and we found the grave number. The reserved grave was flat, and it looked like there was no grave. There was a slight delay and we decided to go back to Grand Vista to wait for council workers to finish digging the grave.

"Thereafter, we were phoned and told that the grave that they thought was empty had someone's remains. So, we had no choice but to take my father back to the Nyaradzo mortuary with the view to get this mess sorted out the following morning."

Junior said on Monday, they were allocated another grave at the same section, because it was his father's dying wish to be buried there as a devout Anglican. He said reserved grave records do not tally with what is on the ground, as the allocated grave was also found with remains.

"The simple truth is the records that they have in the office and what is on the ground do not match. It appears there is someone who has been selling these graves off the records. So, in the offices they are thinking that the graves are empty.

"On Monday morning we went there and they gave us a grave. They dug and they found remains. We were given another one, they dug and they found remains. It was only after being given a third grave that we could finally bury my father," Junior said.

He said the family was not going to be "fussy about the issue" and it was up to the city council to sort out their mess.

"If you don't know who is buried in a reserved grave, how do you know how the person died. Suppose someone was murdered, they can be put there; you can't bury anyone without record. "As a family, we aren't going to make a fuss about this issue. It is in the public domain. It is up to Council to address this issue. If it means that there should be a full audit, so be it," said Junior.

Due to Covid-19 regulations, most of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, could not attend Mr Ngulube's funeral. They watched proceedings on the Zoom online platform. Mr Ngulube was born when the world was grappling with lockdowns, social distancing, wearing of masks and sanitising due to the 1918 Spanish flu locally referred to as iFreza and celebrated his birthday under similar circumstances.

Town clerk, Mr Dube said it was regrettable that the Ngulube family went through such an ordeal and apologised.

"What happened to the Ngulube family is regrettable and embarrassed us as council. We are grateful that the Ngulube family was very understanding and there was a settlement between us," said Mr Dube. He said council had launched an investigation to find out who was buried in the graves.

"We have to know who is buried there. That person could have been killed and we don't have a record of who they are. I'm told that well before my time as town clerk, there were people who were fired for allocating reserved graves outside the law. We want to find out what is the position, who is there and how did they come to be there," said Mr Dube.

Source - chroncile