Bungle over uncle’s ashes

2018-05-31 16:51
Perumal Naidoo’s daughter-in-law Nikkita Chetty holds up the crematorium receipt that was found in the incorrect box of ashes. The details of the deceased have been blurred as it is unclear if the family of the man has been informed of the mix-up.

Perumal Naidoo’s daughter-in-law Nikkita Chetty holds up the crematorium receipt that was found in the incorrect box of ashes. The details of the deceased have been blurred as it is unclear if the family of the man has been informed of the mix-up. (Ian Carbutt)

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A Northdale family’s heartache at losing a loved one was worsened when they discovered with horror that they were “accidentally” given the wrong ashes to bury by staff at Msunduzi’s crematorium at Mountain Rise cemetery.

The Witness can reveal that the City now faces legal action over the grim error.

It has been two days since the Naidoo family were informed that the ashes they have already buried were not the remains of their uncle, Perumal Naidoo, but those of a complete stranger.

According to the distressed family, who thought they were burying 52-year-old Naidoo on Monday, they discovered on Tuesday that there had been a mix-up at the crematorium and they were given the wrong urn.

Naidoo died last Friday and the family hired a local funeral parlour to transport his body for cremation to Mountain Rise Cemetery.

They describe the experience as a bad dream they cannot wake up from.

“I received a phone-call on Tuesday morning from the crematorium and they asked me if we had a cremation of a relative done,” Naidoo’s grieving wife, Rumba Pillay, told The Witness.

“I told them we did. They dropped the bomb and told me we were given the wrong ashes,” she said, visibly angry.

Pillay said she had been sick ever since learning the truth and was battling to understand how the crematorium could mix up the ashes.

“The employee called me again and told me that it was the right ashes but they had just given us the wrong receipt and that we needed to return it.

“I told them I didn’t have the receipt as it was my son who had collected the ashes.”

Perumal Naidoo.

Pillay said her son told the family that he had not received a receipt but had noticed a piece of paper inside the box they had buried.

“We went to the grave yard and dug out the box to see whose name was inside. When we took out the box it was very disturbing ... we discovered that it had somebody else’s name on the receipt and not my husband’s,” said Pillay.

She said the family has since discovered that the remains belonged to a man from Woodlands, whose name is known to The Witness.

“Our main concern is where are my husband’s ashes?His body is not resting in peace. I’m already grieving and now I’m suffering more not knowing where his remains are. We were shocked and we cannot understand how this happened,” she said.

The family said they had handed the box back to the Mountain Rise Crematorium. “They insisted that there was a misunderstanding and that the employee who had handed us the ashes was just an assistant.

“The manager said the muddle was only with the names. We refused to take the box and left it with them.”

The family’s worst fears were confirmed when they received a phone-call on Tuesday afternoon from another funeral parlour wanting to arrange an exchange. “We met up with someone from a Woodlands funeral parlour at the cemetery so he could give us what we thought would be our rightful box but it wasn’t. That man was carrying a green box and ours is silver.

“I can’t keep the green box in my house because I don’t even know who the ashes belong to,” she explained.

Rituals done for wrong ashes

Pillay said the ordeal was traumatic for her family as they had performed religious rituals for the wrong ashes and buried them in a family grave.

“We buried these ashes in our granny’s grave. We don’t even know what rituals were performed on that body.

“We now have to cleanse that grave and we don’t know how this man’s spirit will affect us,” she said.

The owner of the funeral parlour that was hired by the family confirmed that they had taken Naidoo’s remains to the crematorium.

“It has created a very big doubt in their minds. They don’t know if they have the correct ashes. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any tests that can be done to prove whose ash it is,” he said.

He said the municipality should be answerable for not training people properly. “There are only two cremations a day and they should know whose ashes are where.”

Acting Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo denied any knowledge of the incident. “No such incident has never happened in the municipality before. We will conduct an investigation to determine what happened. We apologise to the families affected,” said Ngcobo.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  funeral

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