BULAWAYO – The burial of a prominent Bulawayo hotelier and gold buyer who died from Covid-19 was abandoned on Wednesday after her family squabbled over her properties.
Memory Ngwenya, who was 41, owned the Continental Hotel in Kumalo and more than a dozen houses around the city.
She died on Monday after catching the virus.
Her body was driven for burial in Lower Gweru, under Chief Sogwala, on Wednesday but the funeral party found her parents’ rural home barricaded with tree branches.
The body was returned to Bulawayo, a round trip of more than 500 kilometres.
Local MP Omega Sibanda said: “I condemn what has happened, the disrespect of the dead. We’re a Christian community and we cannot allow such things to happen, fighting over property before one is even buried.”
Funeral parlour Doves, according to Sibanda, has given the family 12 hours to come to a decision on what is to be done with Ngwenya’s remains.
Ngwenya, a mother of one, was staying with her boyfriend – foreign currency dealer and lodge owner Byron Rice – at the time of her death after being separated from her ex-husband, the Bulawayo Ward 5 councillor Felix Mhaka.
Some members of the family are reportedly insisting on sharing her properties before she is buried, which is being resisted by Rice and others who insist on waiting for her last will and testament to be read after she is laid to rest.
Tragic events leading to her death are believed to have started when a relative’s body from South Africa arrived for burial in Sogwala about two weeks ago.
Local elders reportedly insisted on opening the coffin wrapped in plastic to inspect the body.
Ngwenya’s mother fell ill shortly after the funeral, and the late businesswoman travelled to Sogwala to bring her to Bulawayo for medical treatment. The mother died days later from Covid-19 and was buried on July 13, one of five people from that funeral who have since died, according to local health officials.
Ngwenya subsequently tested positive for the virus and succumbed on Monday. – ZimLive