Man marries dead fiancée, buries her the same day
DURBAN - Even death could not keep them part. Jabulani Dlungwane, 51, who lives in Osindisweni township outside Verulam, wedded his sweetheart, Sindisiwe Khumalo, last weekend.
But this wedding was somewhat different, because Khumalo was dead, having succumbed to diabetes a week earlier.
Instead of burying his fiancée, Dlungwane kept his promise and married her while she lay in her coffin in a traditional wedding attended by people from the community.
“I was honouring her wish,” said Dlungwane, who described his relationship with Khumalo as blossoming.
A jovial mood prevailed among the guests at Dlungwane’s house.
Khumalo was buried later the same day.
During the wedding, Dlungwane was clad in his traditional attire made of cowhide, (ibheshu). He stood next to the coffin while relatives ululated and danced around, as some stunned members of the community watched on.
In the real sense of a Zulu traditional wedding, the crowd ululated while Dlungwane made his traditional dance near the coffin which was wrapped with a blanket.
He said: “We had already decided on the date. Unfortunately, my wife died before our wedding which was set to happen in the next two weeks. I had to honour her, even in death. I loved her with all my heart.”
Dlungwane still speaks of his wife in the present tense. He said he overcame the odds that were stacked against him and his wife.
“But nothing deters me from giving her the love that she deserves,” he said.
He said he has faced a barrage of criticism from people.
“I have been blamed for marrying my wife when she was dead but I don’t care. I did what I wanted to do and I’m happy and I know she is happy wherever she is,” he said.
Commenting on the practice, iNkosi Phathisizwe Chiliza, chairperson of the house of traditional leaders, who is well vested on traditional matters, expressed concerns on how Dlungwane had handled the process.
He said the practise of marrying the dead was done in Zulu culture, but the ceremony was not to be public, but confined only to the family.
“It is done,” said Chiliza. “He was supposed to perform this privately with the family of his wife and later bury her with dignity.
“It defies our tradition when people ululate at a funeral. It is not supposed to be.”
A neighbour who attended the wedding-cum-funeral, Bhekinkosi Chiliza, 55, said he had never experienced such an event before.
“It was my first time to see such a wedding. I’m now approaching my 60s but I have never seen something like this. I’m baffled, to say the least.
“People are free to do things in whichever way they want. I’m not God, I cannot be pointing fingers,” Chiliza said.
He said he was one of the many guests who feasted on the slaughtered cow and guzzled traditional beer.
Another neighbour, Joseph Mthalane, 49, said it was a marvel to attend the ceremony.
“I’m happy for him and you see he is also happy for what he has done. I commend him for being brave because we don’t know what they discussed with his wife before she died.”
Mthalane said his friendship with Dlungwane spanned decades. Dlungwane said he will mourn his wife.