Some funeral parlour owners in Cape Town are pleading with the Mozambican authorities to release their colleague who was arrested while transporting a body last month… writes Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik.
- The owner of a Cape Town funeral parlour was detained in Mozambique last month.
- The reason for his arrest is unclear, but a colleague who spoke to him briefly soon after his arrest says authorities had accused him of transporting people with fake documents.
- His colleagues and family went to the Mozambican consulate on Thursday to ask for help locating and releasing him.
Patrick Lunguza, 53, was arrested in Mozambique in a small town called Tete on 24 February. He was transporting the body to Malawi via Mozambique.
Lunguza from Retreat owns a funeral parlour next to Cape Town International Airport. And during the Covid-19 pandemic, his business’s main income became assisting families repatriate dead foreign nationals to their home countries.
GroundUp has been unable at this stage to determine the reasons for Lunguza’s arrest. The last time his family heard from him was two days after his arrest and he had still not been charged by authorities.
On Thursday, about 15 owners of funeral parlours in Cape Town went to the Consulate of Mozambique’s offices in the city centre to ask for help.
In a letter to be handed to consulate officials, the group called for Lunguza to be released and given access to medical assistance. They also called for him to be allowed to contact an attorney to help him apply for bail. The group also asked officials to communicate with their counterparts in Mozambique to negotiate Lunguza’s release.
At the consulate, two officials who refused to give their names, spoke to the group. They explained that they “had no power to assist” them.
After a brief verbal altercation, the two officials asked the group to email their complaint to them and they will send it to the relevant people. When they were asked to sign the group’s letter, the officials refused.
Matshayandile Matyeni, chairman of the South African Funeral Directors, joined the group at the Consulate on Thursday. He said that they were shocked by the arrest because they were certain that Lunguza had the correct documents to travel to Malawi as it was not his first trip.
Matyeni said their attempts to contact different officials for help have been fruitless. “Lunguza told me that when he was arrested, Mozambican authorities said the people he was transporting to Malawi with the deceased had fake documents. What is shocking is that those people were later released to continue their journey while he remained in the cells.”
Matyeni said there was no clear explanation for why Lunguza was still being detained. And they have not been able to contact him for two weeks.
“The Mozambique embassy officials are the only ones who can contact the authorities in their country. We are worried about [Lunguza]. We just need answers,” he said.
Lunguza’s wife Lindi told GroundUp that when she last spoke to him, he told her that he was arrested for transporting foreigners. “My husband is our breadwinner. If only I knew what was happening, or when he will appear in court. I keep on calling people around there and in most of the state offices, I don’t get help because I do not understand their language,” she said.
The two Consulate officials promised to respond to GroundUp via email when they had information about Lunguza’s case but had not done so by the time of publication.