Court rules in customary law dispute over burial of children shot dead with their mom

Pumla Mvinjelwa. (From poster, Jenni Evans, News24)
Pumla Mvinjelwa. (From poster, Jenni Evans, News24)

A grieving family have won the right to bury their daughter's children after a protracted battle involving customary law delayed their funerals. 

A family spokesperson said this means the parents and siblings of Pumla Mvinjelwa can start making plans to lay her and her two children Nhlanhla and Bajabulile to rest. 

"It is long overdue," said Ncumisa Mahangu.

On September 26, Pumla and her children were shot dead at their home in Bardale Village, east of Cape Town.

Her husband Sithembile Ntombela is understood to have shot and killed himself. 

The tragedy sparked a disagreement between their families over who had the right to bury the children. 

Sithenmile's family believed that, in terms of Xhosa customary law by which they abide, they had the right to bury the late couple's children, but Pumla's family disagreed. 

Also angry about the triple murder, her family did not want the three to be buried near him.

The dispute went to the Western Cape High Court on October 28, with her family telling News24 on the sidelines that they had struggled to get their bodies released from the mortuary because of the disagreement. 

Her brother Vulabeza Mvinjelwa said there had been some problems between the couple before the tragedy. 

Her parents had even asked that she send the children to them. 

Nhlanhla and Bajabulile Mvinjelwa
Nhlanhla and Bajabulile, who can now be laid to rest. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Pumla decided against it, opting to continue living as a family with her children and husband. 

Mvinjelwa said they were only told of the shooting and the apparent suicide after the bodies had been removed. Her family was told by his family that they could only bury her, and not the children. 

He said their deaths came as a shock, even though the couple had problems.

He had always regarded his brother-in-law as a very quiet and humble man.

Mahangu said the case decision was made in terms of civil law, and not customary law.

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