IMAGINE living with the fact that one’s father’s dead body was stolen from the grave the first night it was buried and nothing but river sand used to cool the corpse before burial remained.
That is not a script from South Africa’s Venda soapie Muvhango where the witchcraft deeds of Nenzhelele played out. It’s real life drama. The Ncube family from Gwenzi in Zhombe can testify to that as it transpired after the burial of their father Ntengwane Ncube (89) last month.
They got the shock of their lives the next morning after laying the family head to rest when they visited the grave to do family rituals. When they got there, they discovered that the corpse had been exhumed. Without wasting time, they followed footprints which led them to a bushy area where they discovered traces of river sand which they had used to cool the corpse, a clear indication that the corpse was exhumed from the grave with its blanket and the coffin left behind.
The footprints later led them to a certain homestead where they suspect their father’s corpse was taken to. However, efforts to find the body hit a snag because when they reported the matter to Chief Gwesela, he advised them to report to the police but the police did not take action.
One of the deceased’s children, Nolly Ncube is troubled by the mystery deed. “We used to hear stories that witches steal dead bodies from graves, but ours is an extraordinary incident. “It is very disturbing to know deep down in your heart that your father’s grave is empty. That is our situation,” she said before breaking down.
Nolly failed to narrate what transpired and therefore, led the news crew to one of the family elders Elliot Moyo. “As is the norm, the following morning after burial, the family proceeded to the grave only to discover that it had been tampered with and even the flowers had been removed.
“Fortunately, there had been light showers during the night so we easily identified the footprints and followed them. They led us to a bushy area where we suspect the corpse had been put as there was that river sand which had been used to cool it,” said Moyo. He said the footprints later led them to one MaMpofu’s homestead, but from the gate, the trace had been swept. “When all this was happening (search), it was not only the family, but we had been joined by a number of villagers.
“There was no way we could just get into the homestead and start searching. We reported the matter to Chief Gwesela expecting him to assign his police to accompany us, but he distanced himself saying we should report to the police,” Moyo said.
The police did not act and the family was left with no option but to look for help from traditional healers. “We sought help from traditional healers who confirmed that the corpse had been stolen. “We were left with no choice, but to take only the river sand we had found and did a second burial ceremony,” he said.
The villagers were about to be shocked. “What happened during the second burial speaks volumes as there was a strong wind which uprooted trees around the area,” added Moyo. The family revealed that they later sought for help from a traditional healer who performed a ritual on the grave promising that the witch who stole the corpse would come and confess, but no one did.
This incident was the first of its kind although villagers confess that they always came across “stranger than fiction” situations. “In this village we have had a lot of strange incidents, but this one of the corpse takes the cup,” said one of the villagers only identified as Mlalazi. The suspected corpse thief where the footprints led the villagers to has reportedly become mentally disturbed as she is always moving around looking for the now deceased Ncube.