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COVID-19 funeral stalemate: Family dares gov’t to bury father

COVID-19 funeral stalemate: Family dares gov’t to bury father
FRANCISTOWN: The Letlhakane Sub-Land Board is embroiled in a bitter struggle with the family of a late prominent traditional doctor in Boteti region over his burial.

The cause of conflict between the family of the late healer, Gaborapelwe Mazwimbo, and the Land Board arose after the family wanted to bury him traditionally as per his wishes since he was a traditional doctor.

The family wanted Mazwimbo to be buried at Seokwane 1 cattlepost where he was based and not at any gazetted government cemetery.

When Mazwimbo’s family insisted that they would bury their father the traditional way for fear of repercussions if they did not do so, the Land Board urgently approached the High Court in Francistown last Saturday in a bid to solve the impasse.

An order seen by Mmegi which was delivered by Justice Sechele last Saturday says that Mazwimbo should be buried at any public cemetery as opposed to any place which is not gazetted as a cemetery. Officials at the Letlhakane Sub-land Board directed Mmegi to Ngwato Land Board who could not be reached at the time of going to print.

A headman of arbitration in Rakops who is privy to the issue but was not comfortable with providing details of the matter publicly because of its sensitivity confirmed the matter.

He said that Mazwimbo’s family approached them asking if they could bury their father as per his wishes but he advised them that it was impossible to do so since the deceased had died of COVID-19 related complications.

Mazwimbo’s son Molatwaemang Gaborapelwe confirmed that his father died of COVID-19 related complications at Sir Ketumile Teaching Hospital in Gaborone on April 10 although his family is not sure if he died on that date in Rakops or Gaborone.

The headman of records said: “We advised the family that Mazwimbo’s wish was not possible because that will be contrary to the Tribal Land Board Act especially during these times of the Coronavirus pandemic. We then passed their matter to the Letlhakane Sub-land Board where they met the Tribal Land Board secretary who also told the family what we told them at the kgotla.”

Molatwaemang confirmed his family’s stand-off with the Land Board. He narrated that his father was a well known figure not only in Boteti region and Botswana but even in neighbouring countries because of his medical prowess.

“My father was even a famous member of the Dingaka Tsa Setso Association. He was born and raised in Seokwane 1 cattle post. He relocated his family to Rakops where it could have easy access to government facilities but he

was still based at Seokwane even when he died,” said Molatwaemang.

He continued: “We wanted him to be buried at Seokwane 1 but we received a shock of our lives this past Saturday night while we were busy preparing to bury him on Sunday. A deputy sheriff came to our yard armed with a court order from the High Court in Francistown. The court order explicitly instructed us that the court has barred us to bury our father traditionally as per his wishes. We then abandoned everything. We were surprised because the order of the court was made without our knowledge and in our absence in Francistown.”

Molatwaemang also said that what pained them the most was that some people were recently buried at ungazetted areas such as their lands and cattle-posts but the Land Board said nothing.

“Why is the Land Board applying double standards when it is our time to bury our father with dignity the way he could have loved and as per tradition since anyone knows that he was a traditional doctor,” a clearly emotional Molatwaemang lamented.

Asked what the next step forward was, Molatwaemang said: “Since the body of our father is in the custody of government since they say he succumbed to COVID-19 related complications, we dare them to bury him. They can do so at their own peril but they should not be afraid of burying our father contrary to how he instructed us.”

In other words, Molatwaemang said that the family has decided to boycott to bury their father but they will only do so once the Land Board agrees that they should bury him as per his wishes.

He continued: “Since our stand-off with the Land Board, strange things have started to happen. Snakes are invading the homes of my siblings. This is a sign that my father is not happy with what is currently happening. This will only stop when the Land Board accedes that we should bury our father as per his instructions. We told the Land Board that it should it dare to bury our father without the input of our family, they are free to come to our place and take his traditional paraphernalia but they are yet to do so... .”

Molatwaemang also warned that boreholes or wells will dry up in the Boteti region if his father is not buried traditionally at a place of his choice.


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