Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
Durban - Overwhelmed by the exhumation of her father’s body, Christobel Meth wept as forensic anthropologists lifted the red plastic covering the remains of Ernest Joseph on Friday.
“It’s my dad, it’s the same blue suit we buried him in 2005,” she told the Sunday Tribune.
For peace of mind and to perform his last rites, Joseph’s family were forced to hire a private pathologist to confirm that the body buried in a grave at the Redhill Cemetery was his.
Joseph, who was killed in a car crash, was laid to rest seven years ago, but old wounds were reopened for the family when they learnt his body was exhumed in November, without their consent.
The Missing Persons’ Task Team, part of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), whose mandate is to find remains of political prisoners from the apartheid era, pulled out the bodies of Sthembiso Gambu, Sihle and Bheki-themba Luthuli from Joseph’s leased grave.
The family took their fight to the courts, claiming the NPA and the eThekwini municipality not only damaged Joseph’s grave and tombstone but also desecrated their staunch Catholic beliefs.
“We never gave the NPA permission for an exhumation to be conducted at my dad’s grave site,” said Meth.
“All the hurt and pain from 2005 came flooding back.
“They (the NPA) not only damaged my father’s grave and tombstone but they also desecrated our religious beliefs.
“We are Catholics and believe in the resurrection of the soul. We can’t be at ease until we are certain it is my father’s body and the last rites are performed,” said the daughter.
In response, Meth’s mother, Govindamma, represented by attorney Rajesh Hiralall, secured an order from High Court judge Graham Lopes last week, compelling the NPA and the municipality to adhere to the following:
l Exhumation of Joseph’s body, which was conducted on Friday (February 8).
l Independent specialist forensic pathologist Steve Naidoo, engaged by the family, examine the remains to confirm they were Joseph’s.
l Upon completing the exhumation, the NPA and the municipality must restore the grave site and the tombstone to its former condition.
The NPA and the municipality were given until February 18 to contest the order.
Joseph’s remains was covered by a navy blue suit. Near one of his hand’s, fragments of a crucifix, an Elton John cassette and a nip of cane spirit was still contained in his grave.
“Every additional item increases the identification process multifold. We’ve uncovered eight unique items of identification to confirm identity in this instance,” said Naidoo.
Meth said the positive identification was a huge relief for her family and her. “I’m glad that we established it’s my dad’s body. Now we can finally perform the last rites.”
She said Deborah Quin, of the Missing Person’s Task Team, visited her mother in November to discuss the possibility of carrying out an exhumation at the grave site in November.
“Quin insists my mother gave her the go-head, but that is not true. My mother told Quin that she had to consult her family before the exhumation could be done.
“Taking into account the conduct of some people (the municipality and NPA officials), I wouldn’t be surprised if they contest the order,” said Meth.
Father Anthony Kudupadan performed the last rites. - Tribune