Family bury wrong body

SHOCKING DISCOVERY: Andile Nokrexe next to the grave where he believed his father’s remains were buried. His family were told last Wednesday they were given the wrong body Picture: ZINTLE BOBELO

A family in Ilinge had to stop funeral proceedings recently after discovering that Doves undertakers had allegedly lost the body of their loved one. It was revealed last week that the corpse was mistakenly given to another family in Mlungisi, weeks after the burial.

When The Rep reporter arrived at the Xelelo household in Ilinge, residents and family members, who thought they were attending a funeral, had gathered in an already-erected tent, were in total disbelief at what had transpired. Plans to bury Jackson Xelelo, 72, who passed away on January 18 due to natural causes, had to come to a halt after this disturbing revelation.

An emotional Solomzi Xelelo, son of the deceased, expressed his disappointment at the ordeal, sighting negligence on the part of the undertaker. “As a loyal client who has been paying Doves for years I trusted that they would bury my father in a dignified manner. There are people here who came from as far as Johannesburg, Cape Town and the Northern Cape to pay their last respects, but they were met with this.”

The family indicated that when they went to collect the body on Saturday morning, they were told the body was missing along with the clothes he (the deceased) was wearing at the time of his death. “We went through all the records and, according to video footage we were shown, the body is seen entering their premises, but there was no sign of it leaving the parlour. We even went to the doctor who had declared him dead and records showed that the body was handed over to Doves,” said Anele Xelelo, nephew of the deceased.

Xelelo said the parlour requested time to investigate the matter until Wednesday last week and promised to recoup lost expenses. He, however, claimed there was nothing given to them in writing as proof. “We spent money preparing for a funeral that did not take place,” he added.

Another family member, Bukelwa Xelelo, said the parlour’s actions showed that they were ‘untrustworthy’. “This is traumatising. How can someone’s body go missing on their watch? This means they are unreliable and they do not care. All they care about is people’s money. We trusted that they would take responsibility in keeping our family member, but that turned out to not be the case. This was not even a Covid-19 case.”

Adding to the family’s distress, son Phuthumani Xelelo was concerned about the delay as it would also cause problems at his workplace. Speaking to The Rep this week Solomzi Xelelo said according to information given by Doves branch manager, his father,s corpse had been found but had already been buried by a family in Mlungisi.

On Wednesday, the Nokrexe family from Thulandiville in Mlungisi who thought they had buried Themba Nokrexe,83, on January 22 uncovered that the body they had buried was not their father.

In an interview with The Rep Themba’s daughter-in-law, Lisolethu Nokrexe, said: “We took out a policy with Doves years ago and because of disagreements in terms of funeral arrangements and their poor service we decided to change to Mbara Funeral Directors. The funeral went on as planned and we thought we were done, but all along we had buried the wrong body. We heard this today (Wednesday), when the branch manager broke the news to us. It is now February and apparently they were scared to inform us about this all along. Mbara Funeral Directors is not at fault here because they went to collect the body at Doves and were given the wrong corpse. We were charged an extra amount because they had kept the corpse and they refused to hand it over to our chosen undertaker unless we made payment and it now turns out that the body does not even belong to us.”

She indicated that they were considering taking legal action against the said funeral parlour.

Andile Nokrexe said particulars were given to the parlour and he failed to understand how this could have happened. “His explanation of this mix-up was that there might have been confusion with name tags and that my father’s body was placed with another undertaker in town. I believe they took the wrong corpse from the hospital. How my father’s body landed at another undertaker I do not know. What were they waiting for all this time?”

Nokrexe said on the day of the funeral some family members viewed the body, but because emotions were high and the casket was covered in glass no one noticed that the body was in fact not that of Themba. “He was wearing the clothes we had sent to the parlour. This is upsetting. They are adding pain to the wound with this treatment,” she said angrily.

The Rep contacted Doves branch manager Luntu Singeni who declined to comment further on the matter after many attempts to contact him. “The body has been found. I am in communication with the family and I cannot comment further on the matter,” he said.

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