Ventersdorp - Five grieving families watched powerlessly as the bodies of their loved one were exhumed in Ventersdorp in the North West on Wednesday. 

The graves were flooded a year ago. 

"We are relieved because he is out of the water. We are however not entirely satisfied that we are unable to follow our tradition and culture. The notice for the exhumation was too short for us. Otherwise we are happy he is being laid [to rest] in another place," said Elcan Tlhakanye. 

One of Tlhakanye's relatives, Jacob Modise, was buried at the cemetery in February 2016. His grave was one of 48 which were flooded.  

"We buried him on a Saturday, it was raining and we had to use buckets to take the water out of the grave, we thought it was rainwater. Few days later the grave had sinked. We dug it open and found the coffin floating on water," he said.  

"The undertaker told as a day before the burial that the site allocated to us was full, we agree to used this site. But now the same full graveyard is used for the reburial."  

The North West 405 municipality (Ventersdorp/Tlokwe) began to exhume the bodies on June 19 after families complained that their graves have been damaged and requested the municipality to relocate them. 

So far, 28 graves have been relocated. Sixteen more were awaiting approval before the exhumation process could be undertaken.  

The relocation process began after families laid a complaint against the municipality with the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities. 

The commission ruled against the municipality. It was ordered to exhume and rebury the remains in a suitable area.  

Mayoral spokesperson Victor Boqo said independent investigators had found that the soil in the flooded cemetery was suitable for burials.