BURIAL of a 21-year-old Sakubva man was delayed for more than five hours as relatives quarrelled and exchanged blows over his wife's undergarment that had been placed in his coffin last Thursday at Yoevil cemetery in Mutare. Armed police officers had to intervene to facilitate the burial of Carlton Mutseketerwa (21) of Chisamba section of Sakubva in Mutare who died early last week after he was hit by a vehicle.
Apparently, Mutseketerwa, a popular figure in his home area where he was fondly referred to as ‘Chairman', had been staying with Patricia Chirenje (17) as husband and wife for the past three months and Chirenje is said to be two months preg_nant now.
Relatives of both Chirenje and Mutseketerwa, drawn mainly from the Chisamba section of Sakubva that is popularly known as kumaJapan, disagreed on whether Chirenje must be allowed to place her undergarment in the coffin as a ritual meant to ensure she gets married in future and moves on with her life well after her husband's death.
Mutseketerwa's elder brother Hector Matondo told The Weekender that his family totally disagreed with the idea to place Patricia's undergarment in his brothers' coffin since, as a family, they never knew of their relationship.
"Carlton grew up here with our grandma and moved out about three months ago to stay in Chikanga. We understand that is when Patricia eloped and started staying with my brother.
"They stayed together for about two months. When my brother died, Patricia came and we only thought she came to mourn just like anyone else. When we asked for the keys to Carlton's house when we wanted to dress him ahead of burial, Patricia initially refused to give us.
"She later accepted to give us the keys after we had told her that she could keep his clothes for good. When we were about to go to the cemetery for burial that is when Patricia's relatives approached us saying they wanted to perform a certain ritual process that involved placing her undergarment in the coffin," he said.
Matondo added that his family disagreed with the idea to have Patricia's undergarment in the coffin since they not only were unaware of such rituals but also his family did not acknowledge Patricia as their daughter in law.
"We refused to have her undergarment in the coffin since we did not know Patricia as our daughter in law. Apart from that we have never heard of such a ritual so we had no business accepting a stranger's undergarment in our brother's coffin," he said.
While at the graveyard, Patricia's relatives opened the coffin and placed her undergarment inside resulting in the deceased's relatives refusing to go ahead with the burial rites.
A fight ensued between the two parties, with the coffin being lowered into the grave and retrieved four times as the two families bitterly disagreed.
On a number of occasions, the coffin was opened as the deceased's relatives took out the undergarment but Patricia's relatives would place them back against the will of the Mutseketerwa's relatives.
It was only after armed police was invited to facilitate the burial around 5pm that the undergarment was finally removed and the burial process went ahead.
Patricia's mother Linda Marere complained that her child's in-laws refused to listen to the elderly who were present at the funeral.
"It is unfortunate that my child's in-laws chose to play to the gallery on serious traditional issues that could have been resolved if they had listened to the elders that were present.
"They were cruel to my daughter to the extent that they failed to understand basic traditional processes that demand that a woman's undergarment is placed in her husband's coffin to make sure that the deceased husband's spirit does not follow the woman.
‘I took the two (Patricia and Carlton) as my own children. I actually paid RTGS$500 fine when Carlton was arrested and sentenced to jail with an option for a fine not so long ago. I did that because these were my children. I really wonder why they acted in such a cruel manner. Anyway we took my child's daughter's and we are going to take care of the child that she will deliver because she is only two months pregnant," she said.
When contacted for comment, Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) president George Kandiero said bereaved families must sit down and agree on traditional rituals without outside interference.
"I think this is an issue that needs bereaved families to sit down and agree on traditional rituals without outside interference. We are Africans, we are not white and we cannot run away from that but at the end of the day what we believe in differs from one area to the other.
"Therefore there is need to sit down, especially elders of both families, and agree on way forward," he said.
When asked on whether the undergarment ritual actually works or not, Kandiero said: "I cannot really say placing an undergarment in the coffin works or does not work. It depends with the beliefs in a given area and that is why I said there is need to sit down and agree."