Frustrated mourners forced their way into the municipal offices in Evander, Mpumalanga, on Tuesday, 2 February, to demand a burial site for a family member who had died.
The family had already paid for a grave at the cemetery at Extension 14, but when the funeral procession arrived, there was no grave to use.
Municipal employees have apparently been on a go-slow and refused to help the public.
Employees at the Evander offices demanded personal protective equipment (PPE) such as sanitisers, scanners and gloves.
The Nzima family from eMbalenhle said the funeral of their loved one was more traumatic than needed to be. It took them two hours before they could bury their family member because the grave site was not prepared in advance and they had to watch and wait while the grave was being dug.
“We are disappointed because we were supposed to bury our family member at 9am, but when we arrived at the graveyard at Extension 14, our grave site was not ready although we paid for it.
“The municipal TLB [tractor-loader-backhoe] began digging the grave when we arrived at graveyard. We waited for two hours.
“We were traumatised because we were sitting with a body who was supposed be buried hours ago,” said Sipho Nzima.
The Nzima family believes things would have gone better had it not been for the go-slow at the Evander offices over Covid-19 PPE.
“The community cannot suffer, although we know that employees are fighting for what is right.
“The coronavirus is deadly but it seems the Govan Mbeki Municipality doesn’t care about that. They only want us to pay for bad services that leave us with trauma,” said Nzima.
“We forced our way into the municipal offices to demand the burial site for which we had paid. Where else on earth is something like this happening?”
“We were turned away many times and told that employees are on a go-slow for PPE. The funeral parlour also charged us an hourly rate for cold storage and burial delays.
“We want our family to be buried in dignity, while this municipality received a lot of money from us and the government,” said an indignant Nzima.
The Govan Mbeki Municipality’s acting head of communication, Donald Green, said the municipality was not aware of a go-slow strike in the cemetery booking offices or anywhere in the department of biodiversity and open spaces.
They were, however, aware that employees were not working because they did not have the correct PPE in terms of Section 8 and 14 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993.
Green said the employees are not on a strike, but have asked for the correct equipment. He said the buying of PPE is at the procurement stages and will be addressed.
“The family referred to, did not have to wait two hours because there was no grave. The correct information is that the family was allocated a grave, which unfortunately was flooded with water when they arrived for the burial.
“A day before and early that morning of the funeral it rained but they were allocated another grave that was available with less water.
“It had mud in because of the rain. Unfortunately the family refused to take that grave,” said Mr Green.
He said that while they were arguing about the water-logged and muddy graves, the TLB arrived to dig other graves for the weekend and the family demanded that they will wait for the new grave to be dug.
Green claims the decision to wait for the grave was made by the family, not the municipality.
He said the municipality has enforced strict rules and regulations in all its buildings to ensure that no person or employee is at risk of contracting the Covid-19.
“Hand sanitisers are found in all main entrances.
“Adherence to access control and limited numbers inside municipal offices are strictly enforced.
“We advise the public to ensure that they continue practising healthy hygiene habits and maintain social distancing when visiting municipal offices,” said Green.