Dirco, KZN govt working to have SA woman's remains returned from Bahamas – MEC

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Lindiwe Sisulu, minister of international relations and cooperation. (File, Sarel van der Walt, Netwerk24)
Lindiwe Sisulu, minister of international relations and cooperation. (File, Sarel van der Walt, Netwerk24)

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation and a KwaZulu-Natal inter-departmental team are working to repatriate the remains of a South African woman who died in the Bahamas, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Sihle Zikalala said on Monday.

During a visit to the family of 29-year-old Nobuhle Bhengu on Monday, Zikalala confirmed that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation was liaising with authorities in the Bahamas to ensure that her remains were returned to her family in South Africa.

"We will continue to update the family once there is new information. Since this matter was brought to our attention, the KZN government has been in constant contact with the national government."

He went on to commend International Relations and Cooperations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for facilitating government-to-government contact, "to ensure that the mortal remains are repatriated back to KZN and handed over to the family".

Bhengu's relatives have desperately been attempting to have her body sent back to South Africa.

The family says it understands that the 29-year-old died in a hospital in Nassau, after being admitted there in February. Bhengu was an MSC crew member and died after she became ill on board the MSC Seaside.

Bhengu's sister Mbali previously said that, when her sister left for her cruise assignment in July last year, she was healthy and was given a medical fitness certificate by a doctor.

"She told me that she fell sick in January, but said they only took her to the hospital in the Bahamas on February 8, where she died four days later."

Zikalala said the trauma that the family had experienced would take years to heal.

"But we hope that receiving the mortal remains of Buhle will assist in healing the broken hearts. As the KZN government, we will continue to offer our support to the Bhengu family during this traumatic period," he said.

Zikalala said a team assigned by Social Development MEC Weziwe Thusi and Health MEC Sbongiseni Dhlomo would provide support to the family.

"Amongst the interventions is assigning social workers to provide, on a continuous basis, psycho-social services during this period of grief. The KZN Department of Health will also provide a plan to manage the return of the mortal remains in compliance with all health regulations. We will also work with SAPS."

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