A KwaZulu-Natal family is trying to come to terms with the possibility that they might not get the body of their family member from the Bahamas.
Earlier the government of the Bahamas agreed to release the body of Nobuhle Bhengu from Umlazi, south of Durban, who was working on a cruise ship when she fell ill and was admitted to a hospital in the Bahamas.
The government has been refusing to release her body since she died in February and planned to cremate it over concerns that her unexplained illness could be contagious.
The battle now is to negotiate with the US and UK to allow the body to pass through their countries. So far the US has refused.
Bhengu’s sister Mbali says, “We’re hoping that by them being here and them engaging themselves in this matter something would happen even though they have clearly explained to us – as a family – the laws of the Bahamas and the situation that we’re currently facing right now. We do feel like there was more that could have been done but due to the current situation, we do understand and we’re trying to come into terms as a family that we might and we might not get our sister’s body back home.”
After the South African government intervened, the Bahamas government agreed to release Buhle Bhengu’s body. But the family’s joy was short lived, when the Americans refused permission for the body to pass through the US.
Bhengu worked for the Mediterranean Shipping Company. She fell ill while on a cruise ship which was en route to Miami.
Bhengu’s body has been in a mortuary for more than three weeks.
KZN leaders visit Bhengu family
The MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs Sihle Zikalala and Ethekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede have visited the Bhengu family.
Zikalala says government is still in talks with all relevant authorities to try and get Nobuhle’s body back home for burial.
“It’s not only the question of USA, it’s a question of ensuring that all required permits and authorities are involved. And once it’s agreed, we will take her back home once and for all. Because while they say so but the legal representatives of the company who are based in London are still trying to get the body. But as government we’ll work on all of those issues.”