Battle over ‘grave desecration’

2018-06-14 06:00
Nhonho Mtakatya is threatening to take legal action against the City. PHOTO: unathi obose

Nhonho Mtakatya is threatening to take legal action against the City. PHOTO: unathi obose

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Two distraught families in Khayelitsha say they are contemplating legal action against the City of Cape Town after the latter reportedly reneged on a promise to help with the reburial of their fathers.

The Wece and Tetyana families have said the City had pledged to assist them with the ritual after the graves were vandalised in the Khayelitsha cemetery last month.

Both William Stewuti Wece and Onke Tetyana were buried on the same day in 2015.

Speaking of behalf of Wece family, Nhonho Mtakatya described the City’s behaviour as being disrespectful.

“On the 14 May, I received a call from my mother informing me that there are City officials who are tracing the graves that were desecrated at the cemetery. We hurried to the cemetery with my other two brothers, with the City officials and on our arrival we found the two graves, albeit with the coffins still inside,” said Mtakatya.

He said they were shocked to see that the corpses could still be recognisable.

Mtakatya said the City is liable for reburial of the respective family members.

“The City must take responsibility for what happened. They (City officials) cannot run away because the cemetery falls under their jurisdiction ... Where was the City’s security when these graves were exhumed?” Mtakatya said.

He said as the family they are going to take the City to the Human’s Right Commission. “We want to take the City head-on. My mother’s health has deteriorated since the incident,” he complained.

The City’s mayco member for safety, security and social services, JP Smith confirmed that two graves have been excavated in the Khayelitsha cemetery.

“With the family’s consent, an excavation was undertaken at the expense of the City for immediate reburial and restoration of the grave sites.

“Two coffins were provided by the City in the eventuality that a reburial would be required on the day of the excavation,” said Smith.

He said the City had also arranged for a formal inspection of the bodies at the excavation site and they determined that neither of the bodies were missing any parts or had been tampered with.

“Once the excavation was complete, the families rejected the initial arrangement to rebury any remains immediately. They insisted that the City change the reburial arrangements and take responsibility for storage of the exhumed bodies, the provision of coffins far more expensive than what was provided, slaughtering and traditional rites and reburial at an undetermined date,” he said.

He added that given the difficult circumstance, the City agreed to assist the families by paying for storage of the remains until the request for alternate reburial arrangements could be considered by the relevant authorities within the City.

Smith said although the Thetyana family had accepted the City’s terms, the Wece family reburied their father at another gravesite. “We felt that he was not safe to be reburied in Khayelitsha and opted for Ottery,” said Mtakatya.

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