Home News Family wants R50k for grave mix-up

Family wants R50k for grave mix-up

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A grave mix-up at the Roodepan Cemetery has left two city families in distress and seeking justice.

Two Kimberly families are seeking justice after discovering that their loved ones were part of a grave mix-up. Picture: Supplied

A GRAVE mix-up at the Roodepan Cemetery has left two families, the Lawans and the Brandts, in distress and seeking justice.

The families discovered that their loved ones were mistakenly interred in the wrong graves eight years ago, leading to a demand for compensation from Sol Plaatje Municipality.

The families are seeking compensation of R50,000 after learning that the municipality had exhumed the graves without their knowledge to confirm the mix-up.

They have rejected the municipality’s offer of R3,500 compensation each, which they regard as an insult, especially considering that two other families who suffered the same fate received nearly 10 times that amount.

In 2023, the Lawan and the Brandt families sought intervention in the matter from the Office of the Public Protector.

John Lawan, the spokesperson for the Lawan family, revealed that they were first informed of the mix-up in 2016 under the supervision of Doc Letebejane.

Lawan’s mother, Elizabeth Matras, was supposed to be buried atop his grandmother, Magareth Lawan.

The funerals happened 10 years apart and the Lawans were under the impression that everything went according to plan.

However, the municipality later informed them in 2016 that Elizabeth was mistakenly buried on top of a member of the Brandt family from Roodepan.

Lawan this week expressed frustration that the matter has been dragging on, without a resolution being found, despite his efforts to involve the police and seek legal counsel.

He halted his mother’s exhumation, scheduled for October 26, 2023, feeling insulted by the municipality’s actions and all the “hurt and pain” it had caused.

The family resolved to postpone the ceremony to November.

According to Lawan, he was informed on October 4, 2023, that the municipality had passed a resolution in 2021 stating that families affected by wrongful burials would only receive compensation of R3,500.

He accused a municipal official of lying to them about the resolution, as it was recently “ignored” when the municipality gave other affected families compensation of R30,000.

“Tumelo Maropong showed no remorse by blatantly lying to me about a council resolution that was taken about two years ago, that they’re going to give the affected families of these exhumations and wrongful burials an incentive of R3,500 to either do a ritual or use it for something else,” said Lawan.

“It came to light, and I have it on good record, that not so long ago this very same resolution was ignored and the municipality gave the other affected families an incentive of R30,000.”

The family plans to perform a ritual after the exhumation to put their loved ones’ spirits at peace, which will cost over R24,000.

“We will need to do a ritual after the exhumation for both my mother and grandmother in order to bring their spirits to rest,” said Lawan. “For that we will need two sheep, two goats and the services of a traditional healer. The total amount for everything will cost me R24,100.”

Lawan has also informed the municipality and the Public Protector that if a DNA test on his grandmother’s remains becomes necessary, they will have to bear the cost, as the family no longer trusts the municipality’s handling of the remains.

The green arrow shows where the Lawan’s loved one was supposed to be buried. She was instead buried in the Brandt grave on the left. Picture: Supplied

A spokesperson for the Brandt family, Mary Brandt, said she discovered the grave mix-up during a visit to her sister’s grave.

Her sister passed away in 1994 and they had intended to bury another sister in the same grave at a later date.

Brandt said this week that she wanted the issue to be resolved, but the municipality claimed a lack of funds.

The Sol Plaatje Municipality and the Office of the Public Protector both confirmed the matter and committed to resolving the issue amicably.

Municipal spokesperson Thabo Mothibi stated that an agreement was reached during a meeting on October 9, 2023, and a date for exhumation was set.

“We received the bank details of the two affected families for the applicable financial compensation, in line with the adopted Burial and Exhumation Policy, to be effected. However, the exhumation was stopped by the Lawan family representative,” said Mothibi.

“The matter has been escalated to the good office of the Public Protector and we have presented our case based on the capped costs threshold for the unfortunate wrongful burial.”

The Office of Public Protector said it is currently investigating a complaint of improper conduct and maladministration in relation to the wrongful burial of the complainant’s mother in the wrong grave by functionaries of the Sol Plaatje Local Municipality.

Mlungisi Khaya, the provincial spokesperson, confirmed that the municipality and the affected families have already agreed on the process of exhuming the remains of the deceased from the wrong grave and reburying them in the correct grave.

“The municipality is co-operating with our office in ensuring that this matter is positively resolved,” said Khaya.

He added that the matter has been referred to the municipality to address an issue raised by the Lawan family.

“As soon as this issue is resolved, the municipality will provide our office with the exhumation date, as all parties have already agreed on the exhumation process.”

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