Foreign Affairs says body could not be repatriated for public health reasons
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that it was deeply saddened by the death of South African Nobuhle Ntombenhle Bhengu, who reportedly died a month ago while working on a cruise ship within The Bahamas, but noted it was unable to facilitate the repatriation of her body due to “international public health standards”.
According to the ministry, Bhengu will be cremated.
It did not state the circumstances of her death.
Her family, which had hoped to have her body repatriated to South Africa for burial, according to a South African publication, will be given three days to view her remains.
“The Bahamas also understands the desire of her family to repatriate her body to South Africa for burial,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
“Representatives of The Bahamas met today with members of Ms. Bhengu’s family and a representative of the South African government.
“At that meeting, it was discussed that international public health standards, including the public health standards of both the South African and Bahamian governments would not allow for repatriation of Ms. Bhengu’s body to South Africa.
“For that reason, Ms. Bhengu’s family will have the opportunity to view her remains over the next three days before the remains are cremated.
“While all parties sought to find a way to repatriate Ms. Bhengu’s remains, regrettably cremation is the only course of action that conforms with national and international health regulations.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Bhengu’s family at this difficult time.”
The family of Bhengu was quoted yesterday in the Sowetan Live, a Johannesburg-based publication.
The article published yesterday quoted Bhengu’s purported aunt, Mbali Bhengu, who said the United States had reportedly refused to allow her niece’s body to pass through its borders.
“The USA has said no, they can’t allow her to pass through their borders and now we are trying to negotiate with the UK,” Mbali is quoted.
“…We are not sure what has happened to her.
“When I spoke to her using WhatsApp (before she died) she told me she was hospitalized and diagnosed with anemia.
“When the company called to tell us she was hospitalized they said she had stomach flu and then now we’re told she had Tuberculosis.”
Mbali told Sowetan Live that the family was aware Nobuhle was sick and the family expected her to return home to recover, but she died before she could return.
“She was in a lot of pain and even said she was not sure if she would be able to walk again,” Mbali advised the newspaper.
“She asked me to pray for her and I did.”
According to the article, Bhengu, 30 hails from Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal and reportedly died a month ago while working on the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) cruise ship.