BULAWAYO – The death of five family members in a fire last week in Bulawayo’s Nketa 6 suburb has raised a lot of stink as one of the children Nicolette (12), sired out of wedlock had her body stuck at United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) mortuary because of disputes between two families over who will collect her body for burial.
The child was sired by Musafare Chidembo who survived the inferno with Nontokozo Mlilo but grew up in the custody of her maternal grandmother, Mrs Enita Mlilo for the past 12 years. However, in February she moved to stay with her father at the Nketa house.
The two families were yesterday camped at UBH waiting to collect her body. The grandmother, Mrs Mlilo was at pains to express her disappointment in the manner in which the issue was handled.
“When the child was born I took care of her as she could not stay at her father’s place, the Chidembos even refused seven times to assist in acquiring a birth certificate for her and we resorted to making Nontokozo get the birth certificate alone. Just recently in February the father asked for her to stay with them in Nketa and we agreed. It is unfortunate she died while in their custody,” said Mrs Mlilo.
She went on: “What hurts is that I was told the day after the fire that she had died and went to their house to mourn and went back home. The next day I went back to the Chidembos’ home and asked to go and see the body of the child so that I see what she looked like after she died considering that I was in custody of her all these years.
“I also wanted to understand what really happened in the fire accident. The family said they were going to assist me but I spent the whole day with no response from them. The younger brother to Musafare called Tapera then said he was coming to collect us the next day so that we go to the mortuary as they were waiting for elders from their rural home.”
Mrs Mlilo showed Sunday News a funeral policy for Nicollette as she said her granddaughter was just like her own child after raising her and was prepared to bury her. She said the Chidembos never showed up the next day.
“We ended up having the mother of the child coming from South Africa where she stays and we still have not seen the body of the child. She called the relatives of the child and they said they were going to take her to their home and meet with elders of the Chidembo family. We went there and spent hours there and they said nothing to us. We then asked why they had called us.
“We then left the home in the evening with no answers but we were advised by one of the Chidembo family members to go and talk to Nicollette’s father who is admitted to Mpilo Hospital about the matter.
“We requested that we get a family representative to go with us so that there is transparency but they refused. But when we got to Mpilo we met some of the family members who refused to show us which ward Musafara was admitted to and we ended up getting it from the hospital officials,” said Mrs Mlilo.
Musafara is alleged to have given Nontokozo the greenlight to bury the child and referred them to his brother Erasmus.
“We then resorted to going to the police station in Tshabalala as we were not getting any joy from the Chidembo family. We overheard on Friday night that they were going to Murewa for burial and we decided to also go to the mortuary to see what they wanted to do.”
The Mlilo family only managed to see Nicollette’s body yesterday. Mrs Mlilo added that what was worrying was that the Chidembo family referred the late Nicollette to be a child of Chidembo’s late wife yet that was not the case.
Nontokozo, the mother of the deceased child said she just wanted her child to be buried.
“All I want is to bury my child, this thing that they are taking her to Murewa is none of my business I just want her to rest and we will bury her just as we raised her.
“Some of the Chidembos said she was not known in their family. Her father, however, said I could bury her as I was an equal parent to the child. He said I had the right to do anything to my child,” she said, fighting back tears.
On Saturday morning a group of the Chidembo family members went to UBH with the intention of collecting the body of the child but found an alert Mlilo family already camped at the mortuary. The Chidembo family did not show much interest in speaking to this reporter.
“We do not want to talk to you about this, we have other important issues and if you keep standing here we will just run away from you and leave you standing alone,” said Erasmus.
The Mlilo family was later awarded the burial order during the day and had the body moved to a private funeral palour.
By the end of the day, the Chidembos had collected the bodies of their four other relatives and departed for Murewa for burial while the Mlilo family had started the official mourning of Nicollette in Nkulumane and the date of her burial is yet to be announced