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KwaZulu-Natal - The body of South African Sean David Maritz, 46, lay unclaimed in a mortuary in Mozambique for more than 10 days – his family unaware of his death.

He was about to be given a pauper’s burial when another South African intervened and asked the Sunday Tribune to help trace Maritz’s family.

Now his 72-year-old mother Natalie Maritz is racing against time to ensure that her son is given a dignified funeral.

Donald McQueen, a member of the Mozambican Tourism Board, said he had been to the South African Embassy in Mozambique for assistance numerous times to ask them to find Maritz’s family – without success.

He had met David briefly six weeks previously, on the beach, and felt he deserved a dignified funeral.

When the Sunday Tribune eventually tracked down Maritz’s family on the South Coast on Friday, Mrs Maritz had been contacted the same day by the embassy – which had few details to give her. But because the Sunday Tribune had already made extensive enquiries, it was able to advise her on who to contact.

Speaking from her home in Uvongo on Saturday, Maritz said that learning of her son’s death so late was “a mother’s worst nightmare”. “I just want to bring my boy back home,” she said. “That my son died alone, without a friend or any family around him, saddens me. It’s worse that we didn’t hear about his death for almost two weeks. I want him home so he can be at peace.”

She said exact details around his death were unclear including the date of death.

“Also all we know is that he died of cerebral malaria. We don’t know what has happened to his belongings. We’re in the dark. I have made countless calls and am waiting for people to get back to me.”

She expressed her deepest gratitude at McQueen’s kindness. “David would have been buried, and we may never have learnt of his death.”

While Maritz has considered bringing David’s body home, it is more likely that he will be cremated, she said.

“I was told by a local in Mozambique assisting me that I have two choices: David can be cremated in a traditional ceremony on the beach, but they can’t assure me his ashes won’t get mixed with the fire ash. Or he can be buried at a local cemetery which I don’t want as I feel like I am abandoning him. I hope to have his body cremated properly at a crematorium in Maputo,” she said.

“My David wasn’t a saint, he was an adventurous young man who loved life and lived it to the full. He was a free spirit and would come and go as he pleased. But I still can’t understand why we weren’t contacted about his death for so long. He had a cellphone and documents with all our details stored. Someone should have called. How many other families has this happened to?” she asked.

Retaining her composure throughout the interview, Maritz said she had learnt how to deal with grief as her husband and sister had both died recently.

“There is no one left, only me and my daughter. Thankfully we are very close. David’s ex-wife and 23-year-old son live in Johannesburg. They were shocked when they heard the news. I don’t see them very often though,” she said sadly.

Maritz intends placing her son’s ashes at a local garden of remembrance where his “soul will be at rest”.

She said David had been in South America since early 2002, had returned to South Africa in April and had stayed with her for four months before leaving for Mozambique where he had started a small business transporting tourists to islands.

The only photograph she has of him was taken soon after he finished school in 1983 when he joined the SA Air Force. She treasures the picture

McQueen said he was relieved that David’s family had been traced. “I didn’t know him very well. We met on the beach about six weeks ago. A group of South Africans meet for a braai every week, and he joined us.

“But I took it upon myself to reach his family in South Africa. I have been here for a while, and though I fell in love with the place, I know there can be inconvenience when there is a foreign death.

“It is a hell of a relief that his family has been found and can claim the body.”

Sunday Tribune