BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
DOVES Funeral Services, in a bizarre mix-up, allegedly buried a coffin without a body and only realised the error three days later, which it disposed of without the knowledge of the dead man’s family six months later.
This was disclosed by a Harare legal firm, Chimwamurombe Legal Practice, which has since threatened legal action against the funeral services provider.
Doves has admitted to the blunder in the burial of Maxwell Chimwamurombe, who drowned in March. It said it is investigating the matter.
Chimwamurombe’s family in a letter to Doves through their lawyers, ChimwaMurombe Legal Practice, said the parlour kept the corpse for six months after the discovery before it “secretly” held a pauper’s burial for the deceased.
In the letter copied to Zimbabwe Republic Police, Insurance and Pensions Commission, Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, the deceased’s family accused Doves of ritualism.
“Your organisation, in a completely bizarre and patently callous and criminal manner, proceeded to conceal evidence by burying our client’s relative without their knowledge and consent with a pauper at Granville cemetery (KuMbudzi),” read the letter in part.
“In a more shocking and completely unheard of move, the burial was a ‘mass-grave’ type of burial. We are advised that our client’s relative was either buried in the same coffin with the pauper or buried in the same grave.
“All circumstances, the burial being utterly disrespectful and demeaning to the Chimwamurombe family. One cannot rule out ritualism. Your high-powered delegation only accepted the fact that ‘something was wrong, but not any specific fact.’ We find that insulting.”
The lawyers added: “We wish to draw your attention to the fact that your high-powered delegation which included two directors, the human resources executive, the group public relations manager and the (chaplain) approached our office creating a perception of acknowledging your organisation’s negligent, injurious and criminal conduct.
“Our clients availed themselves all the way from the rural areas in Avilla and Kanyimo, Nyanga, with the conciliation expectation of a repentant and sympathetic organisation. We cannot say that was achieved.
“Your delegation blew hot and cold when asked by Gombiro on whether they accepted the facts amounting to your criminal, negligent and injurious conduct.”
In a statement yesterday, Doves Funeral Services executive management said it was conducting a full investigation in the case.
“As Doves, we greatly empathise with the Chimwamurombe family during this difficult time. The said matter was brought to our attention by one of our employees and we are currently carrying out a full investigation,” Doves said.
“After getting wind of this information, Doves executive management immediately initiated a process to inform the family. We went through to Nyanga and as per the customs of the land we engaged village chiefs and headmen Chief Saunyama and Chief Katerere to help us engage the family.”
Doves said a police detail also accompanied them to the deceased’s homestead.
“A series of meetings were subsequently held with the family on October 22, wherein we informed the family of the suspected anomaly and sought their support in investigating the entire burial circumstances.”
“A follow-up meeting was held with the family led by Fungai Chimwamurombe on October 25. The meeting sought to find a way forward and initiate the exhumation process at both burial sites involving the deceased families.”
Doves said it was committed to a full investigation of the matter and bringing it to completion.
“We are fully cognisant of the emotional stress the family is going through and as management, we are keen on getting to the bottom of the matter, which will ultimately lead to an amicable settlement of the matter,” it said
“We, therefore, implore the family and all stakeholders involved to walk with us as we follow the due process. As Doves, we are fully committed to operating in a professional and transparent way which has been the hallmark of our operations for over a century.”
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