Family of African cruise ship employee “heartbroken” there is no burial

Cousin expresses frustration with lengthy process to view body

 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The family of South African cruise ship employee, Nobuhle Ntombenhle Bhengu, are struggling to come to grips with the fact that they will not be able to have a proper burial for their loved one.

Bhengu, an employee of the Mediterranean Shipping Company, fell ill while the cruise ship was docked at the port of Nassau last month. She was taken to hospital and later died on Feb. 12.

Health officials confirmed to Eyewitness News yesterday that the deceased contracted tuberculous and a statement released from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that the public health standards of both countries would not allow for the body to be repatriated.

Bhengu’s cousin, however, Tobie Bhengu, in an interview with Eyewitness News referred to the situation as “heartbreaking” and the most difficult that he has ever had to deal with.

“We were told that we would not see the body, that was our biggest problem,” he said yesterday.

“If we did not see the body how would we know whose ashes we would get? The government eventually agreed to let us at least see the body, and now we are expecting more family members later this week so that we can say our last goodbyes.”

Tobie Bhengu also took issue with the length of time the entire process took to get to this point.

“Most things have not been clear to us. They told us about two weeks and it has been over a month to get where we are today,” he said.

“It has been one thing after the next. Sometimes I was not hearing from anyone at all and many times it was waiting on a simple signature to get to the next step. I have been here more than one month.”

Eyewitness News understands that the decision for cremation was made to avoid any health risks or the spread of TB.

A close friend of the deceased, identified as Cozy said that the two were inseparable and the family has suffered a great loss.

“We were always together, like two people in love,” she said.

Cozy recalled the last time she spoke to Bhengu, noting that the conversation was an emotional one.

“We said I love you to each other like we always do. I just wish that she was able to come home before the sickness got so bad that she was unable to travel.”

She added that it was vitally important for her loved ones remains to return home so that the family is able to maintain their burial traditions.

“We can’t deceive or change our religion. We perform our special ceremonies and we know where the body and grave actually is. That is our tradition and now we have to go against that.”

The family said they plan to bury Bhengu’s ashes alongside her mother’s grave in South Africa.

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