Sun Oct 26 04:51:45 SAST 2014

Minister in royal funeral feud - No peace for late gogo

Jan 7, 2013 | AMANDA NGUDLE |

HEALTH minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has been fingered by a grieving family for what they call the hijacking of the funeral of their late granny, who was a queen of the Ba-Phokwana in GaPhokwane, Limpopo.

INVOLVED: Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi was in the middle of the fray over the granny's body. Picture by Robert Tshabalala

 Health minister linked in bitter tug-o-war over queen's remains 

Makhuduthamaga municipality mayor Alfred Matlala has also been dragged into the fray.

Mmakgoshi Makwetle Maserumule (95) died on December 11 and instead of a funeral fit for royalty, her death was followed by a nasty family feud.

This resulted in her being buried by the Phokwane Traditional Council against the wishes of her children and grandchildren, who did not attend the funeral.

Her husband Mokgoma Maserumule, who was the chief of the clan, died back in 1971.

At the time of her death Maserumule was living with her daughter Lehlake Matsepe in another village.

Lehlake and her brother Mmeshi planned to bury their mom on December 23.

But some Phokwane Traditional Council members, who felt they had the right to bury her as she had once lived in the royal household, obtained a court order to bury her.

The health minister is said to have attended a meeting between the two feuding parties on December 21, the same day the interdict was granted - and the tug-o-war reached fever pitch. Her children say the minister also attended two court sittings at the Pretoria High Court where the application was made to stop the funeral.

Motsoaledi, however, denies taking sides in the royal rumpus, saying: "Phokwane is my village and I attend community meetings, not as the minister of health but as an active member of community.

"There's no way that my presence during the various rulings of the court had anything to do with my societal stature," he says.

The mayor's spokesperson, Lemson Moropjane says: "The mayor was invited to the meeting by the Moriti people to come and play the role of the mediator.

"But when talks deadlocked and the matter was taken to the High Court his involvement ceased as the two parties failed to reach an agreement about the burial.

"He was involved in the initial stages of the negotiations because it's a matter that happened in his municipality."

After the council obtained the interdict, they buried the old lady's remains on December 29.

On the same morning, Meshi and his family tried to stop the funeral by going to the same court to obtain an order based on what they term "technical legal mistakes" in the initial order.

Their legal representative, who asked for his name not be published, says Judge Ismail only ordered that the funeral proceed but did not order the funeral parlour to release the body to the traditional council.

"That was a fundamental mistake by the honourable court.

"Basically, by burying a body that was not legally released from the mortuary, an illegal act was committed," says the barrister.

He says their next plan of action, which will be launched when the courts open next week, is to make an application for the exhumation of the body.

The matter is likely to drag on in court as the aggrieved camp is now backed by some community members that have formed a concerned group called Phokwane Community Committee.

"We're hoping the court will grant us the right to exhume the body and bury our grandmother in a proper manner, because she was buried guerilla style, where you have a burial first and the service later," says grandchild Mmabatho Malatji.

"My grandmother died in my mother's care. By that time no one from the royal council had contributed or cared for her. They wouldn't even visit her.

"In fact, we found her in bad health for someone who had lived at the palace."

Betty Maserumule, who is cited as the first respondent in the court papers by the family, refuses to discuss the matter.

ngudlea@sundayworld.co.za; @amandan777

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