The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu faces claims worth R25 million rands after two bodies were swapped at a morgue. Both families carried out funeral rites according to their religious customs, where one family is Hindu and the other being African.
The Mateke family buried the remains of Maharaj 84-year-old Chundersen Maharaj while their relative, Keketso Josefa Mateke, 32 was cremated according to Hindu funeral customs. The cremation itself is not a funeral custom accepted by African traditions leaving both families with a cultural crisis. Chundersen Maharaj died as a result of contracting Covid-19 following hip surgery, he died on July 15. With strict policies in place in terms of COVID-19, the casket was sealed and family were not allowed to view the remains of their loved one and were given Mateke’s body. Mateke had died in hospital on July 5 after suffering an injury while working on a farm.
The two families, one hailing from Thornville near Pietermaritzburg and the Mateke family of Lesotho are now petitioning claims of 10 and 15 million rands respectively from the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health. A letter detailing the extent of the damages experienced has been submitted to the KZN Health department by Durban-based attorney Theasen Pillay. He says his clients both allege that the hospital tried to cover up the mix-up by refusing the Mateke family to see the body of their family member. Meanwhile, he says the Maharaj family had discovered the mix up after cremating the body they thought was their family member.