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No answers after grave mix-up

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“There was no reason for the tombstone to have been tampered with because we erected it on the day of the funeral and it should only be moved when we bury the surviving twin.”

THE LOUW and Koloane families in Kimberley are still waiting for answers from the Sol Plaatje Municipality after the graves of their loved ones at the West End Cemetery were mixed up.

According to the Koloane family, a family member, Keitumetse Maubane, was buried in the wrong grave, on top of a complete stranger, on November 30, 2019.

Maubane was apparently buried on top of Richard Paul Louw, who died in 2012. His family had reserved the space on top of his casket for his twin brother, who is still alive.

The Koloane family said recently that Maubane, who died at the age of 28, was supposed to have been buried on top of her father, Donald Semau.

The mix-up was discovered by Robert Louw, who went to visit his brother’s grave when he came to the city for the holidays in December.

Louw said he realised that the tombstone that they had erected on his brother’s grave, on the same day of his burial in 2012, had been tampered with. It had also been moved to another grave site.

“There was no reason for the tombstone to have been tampered with because we erected it on the day of the funeral and it should only be moved when we bury the surviving twin.”

Louw said he immediately contacted the cemetery staff who referred him to the municipality.

According to Louw, he has been sent from pillar to post and no one has been able to assist him.

“Initially I did not think it was a big deal and all I wanted was for the body that had been incorrectly buried on top of Paul to be removed.

He said the municipality insisted that the adjacent grave belonged to them and offered to dig it open.

“The municipality sent staff to open the grave but it was established that this was not our family’s grave.

“Two days later, they dug up the second grave, which also revealed another name.”

He added that the municipality had refused to dig up the grave which the family believes belongs to them.

“We were forced by the lack of commitment by the municipality to search for the Koloane family to inform them of the situation.

“I have been running between funeral parlours to locate the Koloane family.

“The treatment that we received from the municipality just shows how little they care about the residents of this city.

“In the first place there was no other family present when the two graves were opened, except me,” Louw said. “Because I had to spend extra time in Kimberley to sort out this mess, I am at risk of losing my job in Cape Town.”

He added that to make matters worse, the municipality had indicated that he would have to arrange health inspectors, police approval and the costs of a new coffin before his brother could be buried in another grave.

The Koloane family meanwhile is still reeling in shock after they heard last week that they might have to rebury their loved one, barely two months after the funeral.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Mimie Koloane said they wanted the reburial to happen as soon as possible and for the municipality to pay all the costs involved.

“The municipality must also pay for an ancestral ceremony to allow our loved one to rest in peace.

“We are angered by the fact that we were suspicious on the day of the burial and even stayed behind at the graveside to confirm that this was the correct grave.”

They say they were surprised by the small mound of soil that was reserved to cover the grave, while the nearby tombstone was also suspicious.

“The manager of the cemetery was called and he came with a booklet which, he said, confirmed that this was the correct grave.

“He told us that the Louw family had, years ago, mistakenly erected a tombstone on our grave.

“We had no reason to doubt what he was saying.

“This has really shattered us because we are still fresh from the funeral and just came out of our first Christmas without Keitumetse. We need time to recover emotionally and financially.

“Keitumetse was unemployed and we, as a family, tried our best to give her a decent funeral, and now this. We really do not have the money and we need the municipality to fix this mess.”

According to the family, they have written a letter of complaint to the manager of the cemetery, Doctor Letebeyane, where they expressed their dissatisfaction.

They say, however, that they were angered by Letebeyane’s response that the municipality would not pay for the traditional ceremony, as per required by their culture, following the mix-up.

“Just like the government pays for ceremonies of their fallen heroes to be reburied in a dignified manner, we want them to do the same for us as we are also human.

“They can’t expect to treat people differently. Funds are spent to transport bodies from foreign countries but they belittle ordinary people like us.”

According to the family, the municipality informed them that there were 80 cases where graves had been mixed up at the ABC Cemetery and five at the West End Cemetery.

Municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie said an investigation would be done.

“We apologise for any inconvenience to the families, however we are unable to comment further but will be in contact with the affected families,” said Matsie.