Covid-19: Family in limbo as elderly mom's body lies at funeral parlour

Coffin prepared for the deceased.
Coffin prepared for the deceased.
Duncan Alfreds

The body of an elderly woman, who died of Covid-19, has been lying at an Eastern Cape funeral parlour since Monday because her family cannot get the necessary documents from closed Home Affairs branches in order to travel to her province.

Sandile Mcimeli told News24 his mother had died on Monday and since then he and his family, who all live in Cape Town, have been unable to get a death certificate from Home Affairs because its branches in Cape Town were closed for sanitation. 

The lack of a death certificate means he is unable to get a permit that will allow him to travel across provincial lines to identify the body and hold a funeral. 

Nontsapho Mcimeli, 79, lived in Butterworth and had gone to hospital last week for complications with diabetes and her condition improved. But last Friday, her condition deteriorated and she died on Monday.

The family was told it was a result of the coronavirus. 

Sandile claimed the Nyanga and Belville branches of Home Affairs were closed when he went to them on Monday and Thursday. 


The situation is dire because the family has limited time to get to the Eastern Cape because the funeral house holding the body does not want to keep those who died from Covid-19 for longer than a few days. 

A devastated Sandile told News24 he planned to furnish the police with an affidavit laying out the details to try to get a permit.


Muzi Hlengwa, the chairperson of the National Funeral Practitioners Association of South Africa, has been assisting the family.

He said Nonhlapo's body had remained at the funeral parlour because the family had been unable to identify it.

READ | 'I know my work very well' - Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba defends herself after public embarrassments 

According to a letter circulated to funeral parlours, dated 6 May, the City of Cape Town said Home Affairs offices in the city were "temporarily closed" for sanitation purposes, adding it had furnished funeral parlours with affidavits for people to fill out to get burials done. 


"The funeral parlour still has the body and an arrangement of a funeral cannot proceed," Hlengwa said.

He added obtaining a DHA 1663 certificate, otherwise known as a notice of death, was not immediately available for family members when relatives were suspected of dying from Covid-19. 

Home Affairs spokesperson David Hlabane did not respond to calls or messages sent on Friday. 

The provincial manager of Western Cape Home Affairs, Yusuf Simons, said in response to a texted query he would provide comment, but did not do so by Friday evening.

He did not respond to further texts and calls.  

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