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Moana Amuli: When Elephants Fight, the Grass Withers

Three weeks after her death, Michelle “Moana” Amuli will be buried, finally. Her marathon burial battle has come to rest.  After the drama t...

Three weeks after her death, Michelle “Moana” Amuli will be buried, finally. Her marathon burial battle has come to rest. 

After the drama that engulfed her death, her father Ishmael got the reprieve to perform a Muslim burial. The decision by the High Court, however, does not bring closure to the feuding parties. No one is a winner. The episode has opened old wounds.

The case, probably the first in the country, was not about the deceased, for she could not make an input, rather the two surviving parents seeking to settle old fights. Moana was not accorded the chance to have her death wishes consulted, or considered, rather her parents determined different burial sites and rites, resurrecting their differences, bizarrely blowing them out of proportion.

Moana’s death has brought forth many insights that will remain with us after her death, and are crucial lessons to families, especially parents with children. Some of these pertinent facets, gleaned from ongoing discussions on and off social media platforms, are part of this article, drawing some crucial lessons from the Moana case.

Religion versus parenting has been topical throughout, and which one is supposed to take precedence. Ishmael, Moana’s father raised her daughter under stern religious norms that somehow deprived her of her independent decision-making process, extending into her adulthood. 

And none of the parents dared to consult her religious beliefs concerning her last wishes. The father believed that her daughter was entitled to follow his religion both in life and the afterlife. Her chosen religious beliefs as an adult were overlooked and were retained as a child.

The Late Michelle "Moana" Amuli

As the commotion stretched, family interests were relegated by egoistic interests. In a bid to settle previous battles, the estranged parents went out to humiliate each other, claiming the body, while dragging their families into disgrace. Marital fights should always be confined to those concerned, and dialogue is the way forward if disputes arise. Families will always be there, while personal desires will bring selfish, yet temporary victories.

Some people are driven to win every battle at any cost, even if it means relationships will be terminated in the process. In determining Moana’s burial, there was a need to cede pride and consider the repercussions the tussle will attract. This comprises would have taken their daughter’s reputation and love for her. After all, the burial rites would not alter much to revive their daughter and bring her back to life. Custody of a living child should be contested but let the dead rest in peace.

The African culture and other religions champion the respect of the dead. In this scenario, this was relegated to inflate previous vendettas. The transformation from life to death should be handled properly in a bid to bring closure to the family, with some trusting that if that fails to happen, revenge will occur. 

Debates on inheritance began to fester, clouding the mourning period. Moana’s mother, Yolanda Kuvaoga appeared in her daughter’s clothes, while the father is said to have asked about the deceased’s property.

Fiery emotions overtook efforts to manage media relations. Social media knew that the family was susceptible during the funeral, and they took advantage of their emotional vulnerability to make scoops. This has exposed the lack of media morality or ethics in a bid to make sales or entice views. But the family needed to exercise restraint, by appointing a spokesperson. Or shut up. Moana’s reputation as an artist, trendsetter, and fitness trainer has been incinerated.

In settling the case, Justice Kwenda confirmed these scenarios. “It appears to me that the applicant does not appreciate the possible implications of over-emphasising the deceased’s secular habits which she believes gave her an elevated social standing in her last days because she could be basking in the grandeur of the perceived status.”

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