Mourners who buried their loved ones at a local cemetery were forced to dig the graves themselves after municipal workers apparently visited a shebeen instead of finishing the job. Photo: Supplied


Kimberley - Mourners who buried their loved ones at the weekend at a local cemetery had to dig the graves themselves after municipal workers apparently went to a shebeen instead of digging the graves to required specifications.

One municipal worker was apparently left behind to dig all the graves for funerals held on Saturday in Ritchie.

Shocked family members on Sunday said that they were left traumatised, embarrassed and sad when they discovered that the coffins could not fit into the graves.

One affected family, the Louw family, said the burial of David Louw was less than dignified when mourners had to use their hands and spades to deepen the grave after the coffin did not fit into it.

“We arrived at about 10am and lowered the coffin into the grave but then had to pull it up again because it only went halfway in. The coffin was put to one side, while mourners helped deepen the grave with shovels and their bare hands. When I got into the grave to help dig, the top of the grave barely reached my upper body. The funeral could only proceed about two hours later,” a family member said.

He added that three other families burying loved ones on Saturday were met by the same fate and also had to dig the graves deeper after finding them too shallow for coffins during the funerals.

He added that one of the municipal workers at the graveyard told them that his colleagues left him to dig all the graves for Saturday’s funerals, while they went drinking at a local shebeen on Friday.

Louw’s widow, Siena Louw, on Sunday indicated that she would lodge a formal complaint against the Sol Plaatje Municipality because “they were only after money and not interested in service delivery”.

“I paid more than R1 000 to have the grave dug but what was supposed to be a final farewell to my husband turned into a nightmare. This again shows me that the municipality is happy to take my money but not willing to provide the honest and complete service I paid for.

“The incident has left everyone in shock because my husband could not be buried in a dignified manner. For that I blame the municipality, who treat Ritchie like an ‘orphan’ when it comes to service delivery,” she said.

The spokesman for the Sol Plaatje Municipality, Sello Matsie, said on Sunday that it was unacceptable that the families had to dig their own graves, while they had paid for the service. We view these reports as extremely serious and will get to the bottom of the issue. We will determine exactly what happened and hold those who were in the wrong responsible,” Matsie said.

He added that regulations state that graves should be at least six feet deep.

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