Kenya

Woman's body to be buried after nearly 20 years at the mortuary

Woman's body to be buried after nearly 20 years at the mortuary

A scanned photo of the late Mama Esther Nzakwa Kitivo whose body has been lying at the Machakos Funeral Home since August 2004.

Photo credit: Family Album

A family in Mbuani village, Machakos county, is preparing to bury the body of its matriarch which has been lying at a mortuary for 17 years.

Esther Nzakwa Kitivo, who died on August 31, 2004, will be buried at an alternative place on Saturday, pending the determination of a protracted land case.

Nzakwa’s body has been lying at Machakos Funeral Home since her death. She was aged 93 at the time of her death.

Nzakwa was the first of three wives of Gideon Kitivo Ndambuki, who died on December 13, 2000 aged 100.

Her children have opted to bury the body as the mortuary fee kept increasing. Nzakwa’s family has appealed to friends and well-wishers to help clear the mortuary bill through mobile phone number 0790400367.

The dispute has been handled by seven judges of the High Court and Court of Appeal. The cases was first heard at a Magistrate’s Court.

The issue surrounding Nzakwa’s matrimonial home has been discussed at length in the courts but the declaration that she is the owner of the home has not been made.

On March 28, 2014, Justice Beatrice Thuranira Jaden declined to allow the body to be buried at her matrimonial home. She said the court could not rely on traditional customs as testimony to decide where Nzakwa’s body was to be interred.

Permanent injunction

An attempt to bury Nzakwa in 2004 flopped when one of her stepsons claimed to have consent from the Land Control Board. The consent said the home belonged to the stepson. He obtained a permanent injunction from a magistrate in Machakos.

The family, however, insisted that Nzakwa could only be buried at her home.

A matrimonial home is jointly owned by a married couple, according to statutory laws. Once one dies, it is automatically left to the surviving spouse. Under Kamba customs, however, such a home belongs to the couple but the husband can “gift” it to another man. When such happens, his wife and children are also “gifted” to the beneficiary.

Nzakwa’s children appealed the High Court ruling in 2014. The court is yet to finish typing the proceedings.

The contested land, according to Nzakwa’s son Michael Musau Kitivo, is ancestral and had not been used until his mother built a cattle post on it. She later built a house on the plot in the early 1960s, the son said.

“She called her son-in-law to clear the land. He tilled it with his animals but instead of being paid, the money was converted to [bride price],” Mr Musau said.