Graves in a cemetery. A woman who was about to get divorced has lost her bid to bury her husband. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
Graves in a cemetery. A woman who was about to get divorced has lost her bid to bury her husband. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Estranged wife loses bid to bury husband

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Jul 30, 2021

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Pretoria - Feuds regarding the right to bury a dead person have the potential of permanently dividing the family.

These are sensitive disputes best suited to be mediated and resolved by family elders, rather than being brought to court, said Polokwane High Court Judge Maake Kganyago.

“It is the time when the family should be united more than ever and prepare to give the loved one a dignified burial, rather than hang their dirty linen in court,” Judge Kganyago said.

This was in relation to an application by a widow whose estranged husband died days before their divorce was due to be finalised.

The widow, only identified as Mrs M, approached the high court a day after learning that her husband Willard had died earlier this month.

His sister-in-law, who had been taking care of him for the past three years, and his sister were going to bury him. But Mrs M said on paper she was still his wife and it was up to her to bury him.

Shortly before his death, her husband had agreed to the divorce.

The divorce could not be finalised as the court interpreter could not be present at the time.

The proceedings were postponed for two weeks, but the husband died shortly before the new court date.

A day after she heard about his death via family members, Mrs M promptly withdrew her divorce action and prepared his graveside.

She went to her husband’s burial society to claim the body, but they refused to hand it over without a court order.

Judge Kganyago said it was opportunistic of her to withdraw her divorce action immediately after learning of her husband’s death, as she knew the implications it would have on her in relation to her right to bury him.

The judge also frowned on the fact that she never told the court this, but that her husband’s family members had brought it to the court’s attention.

The family said it was the husband’s wish to be buried by his sister-in-law who took care of him while he was sick.

In turning down the wife’s application, the judge said the wishes of the deceased had to be respected.

Pretoria News

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