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Thousands of bodies lie unclaimed in the country’s mortuaries

Neelam Rahim |

3-minute read
23 September 2023 | 15:48 CAT

Image: BusinessLIVE

The DA has called on the Minister of Health, Dr. Joe Phaahla and the Minister of Electricity, Kgosientso Ramakgopa, to urgently address the pending disaster Stage 6 load-shedding could have on the State mortuaries by providing them with emergency generators and diesel to keep the fridges cold, they also want the Provincial Department of Health to expedite the identification of bodies to free up space in their overcrowded mortuaries.

According to DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Health Madeleine Hicklin, more than 4,000 bodies lay unclaimed in mortuaries across South Africa in September, some dating back to 2017. One thousand five hundred corpses remain unclaimed in the KwaZulu-Natal State mortuaries, while the figure stands at over 1,000 in Gauteng.

The Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) encourages families and relatives to identify and collect the remains of their loved ones. However, according to information the DA received, it appears an extortion racket is operating in and around Johannesburg, where relatives are being forced to pay for the release of the bodies of their loved ones. Some of those bodies are the victims who tragically died in the horrific blaze on Albert Street in Marshalltown. Seventy-seven adults and children lost their lives in the fire.

All the remains of the victims of the Marshalltown fire were taken to the Diepkloof mortuary, where it is believed that family members were expected to pay a fee of R700 for the autopsy and release of the body – despite these services being conducted for free by the Forensic Pathology Services (FPS) attached to all State mortuaries.

Meanwhile, the number of bodies remaining unclaimed in State mortuaries poses a significant breach of health regulations.

“We have been told of bodies that have been packed with packs of ice because as the weather heats up, there are parts of the country where the fridges are not cold enough. There are approximately three state mortuaries country-wide that have their own generators and this will see bodies decomposing rapidly, causing even further challenges to the overburdened state mortuaries,” she said.

Listen to the full interview on the Daily Round-Up with Moulana Junaid Kharsany.


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