Nightmare in paradise: KZN woman cremated despite family’s beliefs
Family is heartbroken after desperate but failed attempt to get her remains repatriated from Bahamas
A pristine white church dress, hanging on the dining room wall of her modest Umlazi home, is all heartbroken Nomusa Bhengu has to pay tribute to her grandaughter Buhle, who died in the Bahamas last month.
Buhle, 30, who worked as a waitress on a cruise ship owned by international cruise line company MSC, was set to return home in two weeks after her contract ended.
But she never got to see her hometown again after she fell ill and died from what authorities claimed was TB.
Now instead of welcoming home her beloved grandchild, Nomusa Bhengu, who suffers from a heart problem, is preparing to receive her ashes following her cremation on the idyllic Atlantic Ocean holiday archepeligo, expected to take place on Monday.
Her grandmother could not attend the cremation because of her health condition.
A desperate attempt by the family to have Buhle’s remains repatriated to SA failed because of international health standards and safety concerns.
The family was against the cremation because it went against their cultural beliefs.
Last week, Nomusa Bhengu, 68, sat hunched and in tears on a mattress in her Umlazi home while a prayer service was conducted by members of the Old Apostolic Church, to which Buhle belonged.
Bahamas authorities told her family that Buhle died of TB but the family has refused to accept the diagnosis, claiming they were given three different explanations for her death.
Buhle’s younger sister, Thobeka Bhengu, 21, told Times Select her grandmother was devastated.
“She is hurt that Buhle’s rights were not considered, as well as our culture to such an extent that as soon as we started talking about Buhle she would just walk out,” she said.
Nana Bhengu, 47, an aunt who helped raise Buhle, is upset about the Bahamas government’s decision to cremate her.
“The people in the Bahamas government behaved as if they never had children and did not know the pain of bearing children. No parent would not want to know what happened to their child, and no parent would not want to see the body of their child.
“Even what we are doing [to allow her to be cremated] is not our wish; it is theirs and we had no choice. I wouldn’t want to see my child cremated even if I wanted to go to the Bahamas. Even now that thought makes me shiver. We as Zulus don’t know this thing. It means that they can’t co-operate with other nations,” she said.
The department of international relations and co-operation, which has been central in efforts to have Buhle’s body repatriated to SA, announced on Wednesday that her body would be cremated because of international health standards and safety concerns over it being repatriated.