Family buries stranger after body swap mix-up

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By Anita Dangazele

A mistake by the Eastern Cape health department resulted in the body of a man from Gqeberha being buried by a family in Lesotho.

The corpse of Mwezi Matshobongwana, 35, from Gqeberha, was mistakenly swapped with that of Lesotho national, Lebo Tsephe.

The two men both died in separate fires in September 2023. Their bodies were kept at New Brighton mortuary in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The provincial health department confirmed the mistake and apologised to the families.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said this was the first time something like this had happened to the department.

“We hope to resolve this as soon as possible after authority is granted by Lesotho,” Kupelo said.

He said the process of identifying Tsephe’s body, which is at the New Brighton forensic pathology service laboratory, required DNA processes to be followed before they could apply to the Lesotho government to exhume and repatriate Matshobongwana’s body.

“Another problem was getting DNA samples from the close relative of the body that was said to have been buried in Lesotho to compare with the body lying in the New Brighton facility,” said Kupelo.

“The most critical part of this case is that it’s international in nature and needs interaction with a foreign country. Lesotho has its own laws that need to be applied when the exhumation process is pursued.”

Kupelo said the department would be meeting with the Tsephe family in Gauteng on Wednesday 24 April.

He said they were hopeful that the talks would lead to Matshobongwana’s body being brought back to his country of birth.

“This meeting will include a team from the department which will conduct redress and facilitate the way forward to lodge papers for an authority to conduct exhumation in Lesotho,” he said.

The families of the deceased could not be reached for comment.

Pictured above: An Eastern Cape Forensic Pathology Service vehicle.

Image source: Facebook


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