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Land Claims Court orders family to exhume body illegally buried on farm

The Land Claims Court has ordered that a body buried on a farm be exhumed and reburied. Picture: Pexels

The Land Claims Court has ordered that a body buried on a farm be exhumed and reburied. Picture: Pexels

Published Jun 21, 2022

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Pretoria - A family’s refusal to adhere to a court order that they may not bury their loved one on a farm in Mpumalanga has come back to haunt them.

They went ahead with the burial on the farm, but now, the Land Claims Court has ordered that the body be exhumed and reburied.

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Acting Judge President Yasmin Meer was not happy with the fact that the family had buried Richard Bonginkosi Mabaso last month on the farm despite being instructed by the court not to do so.

The judge also frowned upon the fact that the police, who were present when they buried the body, did nothing to stop them.

The farmer, Barend Greyling, on whose land the body was buried, earlier refused the family permission to bury the deceased on his farm.

The family launched an urgent application to force the farmer to give his permission, but the court turned this down.

It was found that while the family did stay on the farm, Bonginkosi did not.

Yet, shortly after the urgent application, the family went ahead and buried their loved one on the farm.

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This caused the farmer to turn to court to obtain an urgent order for the body to be exhumed and reburied at the Wakkerstroom Cemetery.

The family of the deceased opposed the application and maintained that it was the right of the deceased to be buried there.

Judge Meer, in the latest urgent application, remarked that the family’s conduct to bury the body on the farm while the court ordered against it is a “flagrant disregard for the court order” and “extremely disquieting”.

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Equally disquieting is the failure on the part of the police service to ensure compliance with the court order, the judge added.

Greyling told the court that when he noticed that the family were going ahead with the burial despite the court order, he asked the local Wakkerstroom police to assist. They, however, said they would not have the manpower to restrain the 100 people anticipated to attend the funeral.

The farmer, meanwhile, sent a copy of the first court order to the SAPS, proving that the family may not bury their loved one on the farm. The stance of the police was that the burial should go ahead and that Greyling could simply afterwards obtain an order to have the body exhumed.

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The captain in charge of the police station, however, did explain to the family that there was a court order in place and that if they were unhappy with it, they could appeal against the order.

The SAPS official also told them that if they went ahead, they would be in contempt of court and could face criminal charges.

The family would not listen and went ahead with the burial, although their attorney also explained the consequences to them.

While the SAPS were present that day, the court was told that the family became aggressive towards them, and they could not prevent the burial.

The family, meanwhile, in this latest application, said the matter was not urgent at all, and the farmer could at a later stage, launch his application.

But Judge Meer said it was an urgent matter, as the body is decomposing daily, and if one waited for a hearing in due course, the extent of decomposition may well impact on the exhumation process.

Greyling also argued that if the matter was not being dealt with urgently, the family may deem it to be permanently buried on the farm.

The judge agreed and said it was in the interests of all concerned that the body be exhumed as soon as possible before a sense of permanency was created.

Not only does the family have to rebury the deceased, but the judge also slapped them with the farmer’s legal costs.

“The respondents’ (family) defiant burial of the deceased in the light of the court order which did not allow it and with full knowledge of the consequences of their conduct, are exceptional circumstances which warrant their being mulcted with costs,” she said. She ordered the SAPS to oversee the exhumation and interdicted the family from interfering with this.

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