Burials delayed as mortuary go-slow continues
WITH each day that passes, the crowd outside the Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Services in Soweto grows in numbers.
Some have travelled from as far as the Eastern Cape so they can retrieve their relatives’ bodies to take them home for burial.
It has been as long as two weeks for some of them.
Yesterday, the crowd of about 30 stood around in clumps, eagerly awaiting news that post-mortems had been conducted on the bodies of their loved ones.
But they had to watch helplessly as more bodies were being brought into the mortuary, while no information was forthcoming regarding the post-mortems or whether there was an end in sight to the go-slow by laboratory workers, who have refused to perform any autopsies.
The workers have downed tools, saying conducting post-mortems fell outside the scope of their duties and that they deserved to be compensated for it.
But for people like Saziso Beja, whose 41-year-old brother was electrocuted after an illegally connected cable fell on him in Kliptown last week, the protracted strike is intensifying their pain.
They are unable to make funeral arrangements or finalise details of how their brother’s body will be transported to Qumbu in the Eastern Cape.
A family spokesperson, who identified himself only as Mondli, said: “We were promised that they (forensic health officials) would be working during the weekend.
“But now we are told that only 14 bodies have been checked.
“If we cry now, it’s like we are soft. It will make matters worse for those we have left at home, because we need to be strong for them, even though things are being delayed,” Mondli added.
Also affected by the go-slow is 15-year-old Thando Mazibuko’s family members, who had had to postpone their son’s burial.
Last week, The Star reported how Thando was stabbed with a screwdriver following a night out with friends in the Joburg CBD.
Thando’s father, Godknows Mazibuko, said he had been waiting for the release of his son’s body at the Hillbrow mortuary for over a week and was only attended to yesterday.
“We received the body at around 1pm and now a private undertaker has the body.
“We are going through the final stages where we need to get the death certificate from Home Affairs,” said Mazibuko.
He added that the family had arranged for the funeral to take place last weekend, but due to the government mortuary holding on to the body, the burial arrangements had to be postponed to this weekend. A forensic officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Star yesterday that they had stopped doing work that they were not paid to perform, which included the dissecting and stitching of bodies.
“This is a go-slow of workers because we are facing challenges while trying to engage with the Health Department for a long time.
“We are dissecting and stitching the bodies and we are not trained to do that.
“And we are not recognised with any certificate to show that we are qualified to do (bodies). The doctors are the ones who go to school and are trained for that,” said the disgruntled official.
Yesterday, the SANDF deployed several of its members to the Hillbrow Forensic Pathology Services to ensure that work continued.
Gauteng health spokesperson Khutso Rabothata had initially promised to release a statement on the matter, but last night he announced they had suspended their statement, “so we are not commenting today”.
FUNERALS POSTPONED: People wait in vain outside the mortuary in Diepkloof, Soweto, yesterday.