Family demand exhumation after bungle over identification
A Port Elizabeth mother wants her daughter’s body exhumed after she was given a pauper’s burial despite the fact that DNA results to identify her were still pending.
Lungelwa Meleni, 58, said mortuary officials, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, undertakers, police and the Department of Health had refused to take responsibility for the burial bungle.
“This is absurd. As far as my family is concerned my daughter has yet to be buried. I do not know the person in that grave,”Meleni said .
Tamara Meleni, 28, of Kwazakhele, was reported missing on January 27 and her body was found near the Motherwell Cemetery on February 10.
She was buried as a pauper on April 27 even though the DNA results were only concluded at the end of July.
Police said the results proved the body to be that of Tamara.
Lungelwa was only able to identify a wrist watch at the New Brighton Mortuary as the body was badly decomposed.
A saliva sample was then taken from Tamara’s body and used to compare it with Lungelwa’s DNA.
It came back positive after the pauper’s burial.
“We were waiting for DNA results when they went behind my back to bury Tamara,” Meleni said.
A pauper’s burial is a municipal funeral for indigent residents.
Meleni said she was told that DNA testing took 96 days and when she phoned the Motherwell police station on July 4 to confirm the results she was informed her daughter had already been buried.
“We were all shocked. The police knew the results were still pending. “I can’t have closure unless the bones of my daughter are exhumed. “How can she be buried as pauper? I want to give her a proper funeral.”
Meleni said she had spent weeks trying to find the person responsible.
Dumisani Vantyi, of Vantyi & Vantyi Funeral Undertakers who carried out the burial, said the company was willing to exhume the body provided the necessary process was followed.
Department of Health regional mortuary manager Jonathan Jenniker, who oversees the New Brighton Mortuary where Tamara’s body was kept, said proper procedure had been followed.
“The body was brought to us as unidentified. She was later buried as a pauper. What happened is that when the body leaves the mortuary, it is no longer the responsibility of the department,” he said.
Nevertheless, department spokesman Siyanda Manana said the matter would be investigated.
“Should it emerge that we were wrong, we will have to [fix it]. Obviously, this matter is close to the family and it needs to be addressed as quickly as possible,” he said Police spokesman Constable Mncedi Mbombo said the DNA results were made available at the end of July.
“The investigating officer was equally shocked to learn that the deceased had been buried before the results was available,” he said.
Mbombo urged the family to report the matter to the municipality.
Nelson Mandela Bay Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said they were not aware of the bungle.