Widow’s 14 year battle with in-laws over where husband’s body should be buried
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Pretoria - A family feud that has gone on for 14 years regarding where a body should be buried ended in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.
The widow argued her husband was complaining bitterly about being buried in a cemetery in a Limpopo village.
She told the court that she had obtained permission in 2006 from the local municipality near the village to have the body exhumed and buried in a cemetery in Joburg.
Manana Bogatsu said her deceased husband was restless and wanted to come home.
But his eldest sibling told the court that the village cemetery, where his youngest brother Isaac Maepa was buried, was where he wanted to be.
David Maepa said the entire blood family knew that that cemetery was their last resting place.
He asked the court to overturn the granting of permission by the Polokwane Municipality to have the body exhumed and reburied in Joburg.
According to Maepa, Bogatsu was his brother’s second of three wives, and had no say.
But the widow insisted she was wife number one and the decision to rebury him was hers. She said the graveyard was far and this posed difficulties for her and her children to perform cultural rituals. Traditional healers also told her that he could not rest in peace and wanted to “come home”.
At the same time, she said, she also had sleepless nights due to his “complaints” of not resting in peace.
She wrote a letter to the municipality in 2006 asking for permission to exhume him, stating that this was the Maepa family’s wish.
It was only after the municipality informed them that “the family’s wishes” for the deceased to be reburied were being honoured, that they got wind of this.
Maepa said the deceased was buried in their ancestral place where he belonged, and where he wanted to be.
Acting Judge F Diedericks said it was well-known that a range of rituals, including burial rituals, played a significant role in African culture.
He said the burial site and the role of ancestors in the indigenous law must be upheld and respected.
The judge said customary law ran like a golden thread through this dispute and the municipal officer who granted the permission to exhume the body should have first listened to all sides of the argument.
The widow said she was a modern and educated woman who did not heed to the stringent views of her in-laws.
The judge said it seemed she sat on two chairs: she was an emancipated woman, yet claimed her husband complained to her that he was not happy in the village graveyard.
Judge Diedericks concluded that the granting of permission to exhume the body was procedurally unfair
as the Maepa family had not been made aware, hence the decision should be overturned.