Home News Body of city woman exhumed, reburied after grave mix-up

Body of city woman exhumed, reburied after grave mix-up

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Woman buried in the wrong grave two weeks ago at the West End Cemetery in Kimberley

Diggers at the grave sites. Picture: Danie van der Lith

THE FISH and Tokong families were taken through the traumatic experience of reburying the late Hazel Fish, who was buried in the wrong grave two weeks ago at the West End Cemetery in Kimberley.

The late Fish was supposed to be buried on top of her last-born daughter, Nozipho Fish, who died in 2017, but was instead buried on top of Joseph Tokong, who also died in 2017. The two graves are next to each other.

The two families, who met on Tuesday for the first time, could not hold back their tears as they had to wait for three hours for the exhumation to take place.

The diggers had to resize the grave as they were unable to remove the casket.

All that the Tokong family wanted was for the confusion to end as soon as possible so that they could find closure.

The Fish family expressed their disappointment in the Sol Plaatje Municipality for treating the service like a pauper’s funeral, regardless of the fact that they were not even briefed on what to expect.

They said they were not treated with respect as there were no chairs or shelter organised while they waited at the cemetery.

The families waited for almost an hour near the two dug-up graves before the manager of the cemetery arrived to make calls to the police and funeral undertaker and organised chairs, sanitisers and water for them.

The Fish family blames all of this on the lack of commitment and negligent behaviour of municipal workers.

“It was a traumatic experience that I do not wish on anyone. Regardless of the costs we put in to ensure that my mom had a dignified funeral, she was moved from one grave to the other as if she was a dog,” Keitumetse Fish said.

“The municipality has internal chaplains, but they could not even offer one to hold a short prayer,” she added.

“The instruction that we gave was clear . . . bury Fish on top of Fish. The diggers did not expect to find a tombstone erected on the grave that they were supposed to reopen. Why then did they tamper with the tombstone that they found on the grave,” she asked.

She indicated that they noticed during the original funeral that a tombstone was removed from the grave and put next to the grave, but they could not stop the burial.

Baile Motlhabakwe, who represented the Tokong family, said she was shocked when she received a call from the municipality about the mistake and that a “swop” had to be done.

Another family member stated that the municipality must allocate enough land for burial sites in order to stop the repetition of such mistakes.

“This is a reopening of an old wound that was in the process of healing.”

The Sol Plaatje Municipality apologised for the incident and said it was a human error after the graves were miscalculated by the diggers.

Municipal spokesperson Thoko Riet said the error occurred when the normal staff was in quarantine and someone else had to stand in.

She highlighted that it is a sensitive issue, while both families managed to come to an amicable solution.

“We regret the error and would rather not engage in blame shifting,” said Riet.