Paying last disrespects 


By Black Edward


IT HAD all the hallmarks of a soap opera: a high-profile horror crash, deaths of socialites, estranged parents of the late video vixen Michelle “Moana” Amuli… and not forgetting a High Court ruling.

But it wasn’t a plot from your favourite TV show — it was a real-life drama.

Enter Ishmael Amuli versus ex-wife Yolander Kuvaoga fighting over the burial of their daughter. In this episode, which remains sharply engraved on my mind, Amuli and Kuvaoga wash their dirty linen in public and, like heavyweight boxers hoping for a knockout punch, they literally batter each other into a stupor.

Blinkered mindsets prevented them from considering different options. None took into account the fact that humility often gains more than pride.

They sought attention but were not attentive to potential consequences of their actions. Had they been cautious they would have adjusted their preconceptions and not become slaves to bias.

You know, preconceptions can lead to misunderstanding. If we view the world with preconceptions we stand in the way of progress.

Plus, preconceptions limit our ability to see “reality” just like a goldfish in an aquarium fails to conceptualise the world outside — it looks out of its transparent tank and watches the world, but it views it through water. Water is the fish’s reality. It is impossible for it to imagine the “absence of water” in the outside world — it doesn’t have any concept of “no water”. Water is the beginning and the end for the fish. As such it misses out on the impressive diversity. It is therefore difficult for the fish to fully appreciate the outside world because of its preconceptions.

But human beings are not fish in an aquarium. Unlike fish, we have several options open to us to deal with preconceptions — we can resort to dialogue, seek help of tried and tested sahwiras or refer to culture.

As Africans we thrive on the concept of Ubunthu — “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’’ (I am because we are), emphasising that unlike the fish we live in a broader world where, because of its diversity, we move forward when we sit as humans and engage each other. Traditionally, a family’s sahwira acts as a trusted counsellor and should be able to offer advice without fear or favour.

Based on cultural considerations, some forms of behaviour and conduct are approved while others are rejected. Parents squabbling over funeral arrangements and delaying burial deserve all the scorn they can get especially when mourners are expressing their sympathy.

Most of the time, the bereaved are normally anxious for proceedings to go smoothly with a drama-free conclusion in these tragic cases.

“Family members have a personal stake in honouring and mourning their dead and objecting to unwarranted public exploitation that, by intruding upon their own grief, tends to degrade the rites and respect they seek to accord to the deceased person who was once their own,” writes renowned author Anthony Kennedy.

Moana’s parents should have realised that there is a peculiar way of life and approach to issues that is typically African.

As Africans, we hold in high esteem and treasure our beliefs about what is proper. In fact, values occupy a central place in our culture. Values actually permeate every aspect of human life, making it easy for us to declare actions either right or wrong. We turn to dialogue and tend to meet each other half way when the values of one group are different from those of another.

Remember, the society we live in has ways of reminding us of what is acceptable and those who do not conform are somehow called to order.

In case you missed the initial reports, Moana spent 20 days in a mortuary as her parents squabbled over the funeral arrangements. Surely, these can’t be last respects; they’re more like last disrespects.

The matter spilled into the High Court where Kuvaoga sought to have the burial order obtained by her ex-husband interdicted.

After initially reserving judgment on two occasions, Justice Pisirai Kwenda finally ruled in Amuli’s favour last week, paving way for Moana’s burial.

According to most African customs, the child is buried in line with the culture of his or her clan. It is the father who dictates how he wants his child to be buried.

One of the contentious issues between Kuvaoga and Amuli was the former’s allegations that women would not be allowed at the mosque and burial site. However, different religions mixed and mingled as the local Muslim community and leaders allowed women mourners to take part in proceedings.

The president of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Zimbabwe (SCIAZ), Sheikh Ismail Duwa, told the Daily News on Sunday last week that women have a part to play in the preliminary funeral arrangements of their loved ones.

It’s heartening to note that the hostilities between the parents have ceased. But still, November was quite a crazy month in an already crazy year.

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