A man's body is languishing in a government mortuary because two women are fighting over which one has the right to bury him.
Nokuthula Hlatshwayo (45) of Emgodini, Edendale, has brought an urgent application to the Pietermaritzburg high court to stop her husband’s Ladysmith family from burying his body. She claims that she is legally married to Velaphi Hlatshwayo (59), who died last week.
Hlatshwayo said they tied the knot in March 2012. She seeks to stop Euphrafina Hlatshwayo and three others from burying his remains. She mentions their names but does not say what the relationship was with her husband.
She also wants to interdict them from interfering, harassing, swearing at or intimidating her in exercising her duties.
They are opposing the application.
Judge Piet Koen adjourned the case to Friday for replying papers to be filed. In the meantime, Sergeant Innocent Gumede has been ordered to take the necessary steps to keep the body at the police mortuary until the outcome of the case.
Nokuthula said in court papers that she is the only rightful person to bury her husband’s bodily remains at their plot of land according to her “wishes and discretion and in accordance with the relevant laws of the country”.
As the “lawful wife” she believes she has a legal right to the relief sought.
She said that due to “various attempts” already made by some of the opposing family members to remove the body, she has a well-grounded “apprehension of irreparable harm” if the orders are not granted.
Nokuthula said she would like to perform her “wifely duties in burying him” according to his wishes.
His wishes were that he be treated with “dignity and respect” and not “buried according to any traditional or customary rites”.
She added that the other people have no claim to her husband’s bodily remains and no right to ask the police and mortuary to release the body.
She said that when she was first informed that they tried to obtain the body on July 16, she attempted to resolve this matter amicably. When this failed, she immediately got legal assistance and arranged for the application to be launched.