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Graveyard shock

News - Date: 19 March 2017

Written by: Elmon Tshikhudo / Viewed: 2723


Death is treated with the utmost respect in the African culture and the dead should be given a decent send-off. The opposite proved to be the case with 17 unknown people who were buried as paupers, allegedly by the Makhado Municipality and the staff from Elim hospital.

The bodies were apparently just dumped at a secluded steep slope in part of the Waterval cemetery, far away from the other graves. The burial, which has left tongues wagging, took place a fortnight ago and was witnessed by herdsmen, who were looking after livestock in bushes near there.

According to information at this newspaper's disposal, the bodies are believed to be mostly foreigners. The bodies arrived at around 16:00 in two open trucks, allegedly belonging to the Makhado Local Municipality.

The witnesses said many of those who came to bury the dead were women and a few men, who did their burial in a huff. "We were busy looking for our livestock at our farm that is adjacent to the cemetery when we were overwhelmed by a heavy smell, which we thought was that of a cow that could have died in the bushes. As we got closer to the cemetery, the smell became very intoxicating, but there was no carcass. We only found out that the smell emanated from the graves that were at the corner of our farm. The graves were partly closed and looked very shallow," said Mr Baldwin Maboko, whose family owns a farm near the new cemetery.

Maboko further indicated that it became evident that something had not been done well and they were on the receiving end because they could not even breathe as a result of the disgusting odour. He added that they started avoiding the part closest to the cemetery but could not avoid it completely as livestock would go there in search of grazing.

According to him, the bad smell is making life very difficult for them and they cannot perform their duties well and fear that they will soon get sick if nothing is done to rectify the mistake. 

Mr Lucas Maszive, who witnessed the burial, described it as very inhumane. "I have never seen anything like this in my life. Firstly the dead were brought in two open trucks and were offloaded in a very inhumane way into the graves, with some of the graves containing two coffins. The graves were not even marked and did not have numbers on them. The graves were on a steep slope and were all covered with loose soil that will be washed away when the rain comes.”

He added that he was very disappointed, "even if it is foreigners being buried, they deserve dignity as they are also human beings". He echoed the same sentiment that the bad smell would ultimately make them sick if the graves were not covered properly.

The owner of the farm next to the cemetery, Ms Pauline Mabogo, said the burial of the 17 people had inconvenienced her a great deal. "We have seen people being dumped in a mass grave like in war situations. No matter where they come from, the dead deserve respect. We are so disappointed to hear that this was done by our own people who know our culture very well.”

She added that she was worried that her employees no longer wanted to work next to the cemetery because of the bad smell. “They have been complaining for the whole of last week and I fear that they will get sick at any given time if the municipality and the hospital do not do their homework well and rectify their mistake," she said.

Asked to comment about the burial, Makhado municipality spokesperson Louis Bobodi said that the municipality had buried the dead according to approved standard specifications. "There is nothing unbecoming here and the marking of graves would be done by the hospital," he said.

According to residents of the Thulamela Municipality, the situation at the Mbaleni graveyard that is used by the Thulamela Municipality to bury unknown people leaves much to be desired. Most of the graves are unmarked, some are sinking, while the rest could not be identified because of the dense bushes there.

Residents are also complaining that the graveyard has become a safe haven for criminals who run to the bushes and hide there after stealing from the community.

Asked about the state of the graveyard at Mbaleni, Thulamela Mayor Mushoni Tshifhango said the last time they had a burial there last year, the gravesite was clean. "We have personnel tasked with the clearing of  the gravesite and maybe it is because of the heavy rains that there are bushes. The unmarked graves are as a result of the hospitals we work with being unable to identify the deceased. I am going to make a follow-up and see how we can remedy the situation," he said.



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Farmer Baldwin Maboko stands next to the place where the 17 unknown bodies were buried.


An opening in the pallisade fence at the Mbaleni graveyard that criminals use as gateway after stealing from the community.

The graves are hardly visible at Mbaleni, because of the dense bushes there.

Some of the graves are sinking at the Mbaleni graveyard.

Farm owner Ms Pauline Maboko, who says the smell adversely affects her business. She is appealing to the government to do its homework and to rectify its mistakes.

This is the scene where 17 bodies were buried in shallow graves.


Elmon Tshikhudo

Elmon Tshikhudo started off as a photographer. He developed an interest in writing and started submitting articles to local as well as national publications. He became part of the Limpopo Mirror family in 2005 and has since been a familiar name among the newspaper's readers.


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burial site, paupers, makhado municipality, elim hospital