Ag­o­nis­ing mor­tu­ary wait goes on

Ten­sion mounts as fam­i­lies con­front staff

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - NOKUTHULA ZWANE AND THABANG RAMMUTLA

EMO­TIONS boiled over at the Hill­brow mor­tu­ary yes­ter­day as frus­trated be­reav­ing fam­i­lies sought an­swers on the re­lease of their loved ones’ bod­ies.

Po­lice were called in to defuse the sit­u­a­tion sparked by the pro­tracted go-slow by Foren­sic Pathol­ogy Ser­vices staff.

This came af­ter en­raged fam­i­lies con­fronted man­age­ment at the mor­tu­ary, say­ing they would be damned if they left with­out the bod­ies, which re­sulted in em­ploy­ees shout­ing back: “You can take your bod­ies and go!”

The fam­i­lies felt dis­re­spected by the com­ment and threat­ened to take the mat­ter into their own hands.

Among rel­a­tives at the end of their tether was the fam­ily of a two-year-old who died two weeks ago, and a fam­ily from Est­court, KwaZulu-Natal, whose son was gunned down on Jules Street in Malvern, Joburg, last Satur­day.

All Alpheus Khany­ile wanted yes­ter­day was to take his 25-year-old son’s re­mains home for burial.

His son Phi­lani was knocked over and shot dead while walk­ing home.

“They told me that they will per­form a post-mortem and I should fetch him on Wed­nes­day.

“We wanted to have the funeral this week­end but now I am told that noth­ing has been done,” he said.

Out­side the mor­tu­ary, a hearse that he had hired from his home town sat idle, wait­ing for him.

“We stay in the ru­ral ar­eas of KwaZulu-Natal and I had to bor­row money to get here to fetch my son.

“The funeral ser­vice hearse that I have hired, I bor­rowed the money for it too,” he added.

Ac­cord­ing to Khany­ile, man­age­ment at the mor­tu­ary said Phi­lani’s body was not on the pre­scribed list that was drawn up for yes­ter­day’s au­top­sies.

“They told us that 50 bod­ies have not been at­tended to and that there are fam­i­lies who have been wait­ing for over three weeks. So now we are con­fused about what we must do.

“We are even plan­ning on sleep­ing here if we have to. We have lost a lot of money and we are un­em­ployed. The funeral par­lours, cof­fin and the funeral cost us over R5 000,” said Khany­ile.

An al­ter­na­tive was to re­quest that the body be re­leased for the au­topsy to be per­formed in Est­court.

Also hit by the mor­tu­ary strike, the Mahlanga fam­ily likened the mor­tu­ar­ies to prisons for the dead.

“I am afraid to re­turn home to tell them. We heard in the news that the strike was called off, but when we got here, it seems the strike is still con­tin­u­ing or they don’t want to work,” said Melusi Mahlanga.

Mahlanga is the un­cle of two-year-old Bonginkosi Mlilo, who died on June 18 af­ter suf­fer­ing from flu-like symp­toms.

“If they don’t want to work, let them give us her body in­stead of mak­ing us suf­fer.

“We can­not wait any longer be­cause this is be­com­ing a jail for the dead.

“It’s hard be­cause the wound is grow­ing be­cause of this,” Mahlanga added.

Un­like the Khany­ile fam­ily, the Mahlangas breathed a sigh of re­lief at about 3pm yes­ter­day af­ter lit­tle Bonginkosi’s body was re­leased, end­ing their twoweek wait.

Mahlanga said he felt a weight lift off his shoul­ders when he was told that the body had been re­leased.

“I felt like cry­ing be­cause I didn’t be­lieve it when they called out her body num­ber,” he said.

He added that funeral ar­range­ments had been made for tomorrow.

Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion, Health and Al­lied Work­ers Union spokesper­son Khaya Xaba con­firmed there was no strike or go-slow.

The SA Na­tional De­fence Force had de­ployed sev­eral of its mem­bers to the Hill­brow Foren­sic Pathol­ogy Ser­vices to en­sure that work con­tin­ued.

Man­age­ment of the mor­tu­ary re­fused to com­ment to The Star fol­low­ing fam­i­lies’ com­plaints about the ser­vice.

The Gaut­eng De­part­ment of Health had not made a com­ment by the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

@Zwane_2li2ls @IamKGABUTLA

PIC­TURE: ITUMELENG ENGLISH

EMO­TIONAL TIME: Melusi Mahlanga, un­cle of two-year-old Bonginkosi Mlilo, was left wait­ing for the child’s body to be re­leased from the gov­ern­ment mor­tu­ary in Joburg for two weeks as a re­sult of the strike.

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