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The family of a 41-year-old man whose death – following an alleged assault – sparked violent attacks in Refilwe near Cullinan is demanding to know why the cause of his death was listed as “natural” on his death certificate.
John Oarabile Tau was allegedly hit on the head by a Pakistani shop owner who had suspected him of shoplifting on January 26.
His death prompted residents to go on a rampage. In two days of violence and clashes with police, they broke into and looted shops belonging to foreign nationals in the Pretoria East township.
According to Tau’s family, he was on his way from work and had passed by the shop to get a few items needed at home when the assault happened. The assault was so severe it left him delirious, his brother Johannes Tala told the Pretoria News on Tuesday.
Tau was treated for head injuries at Mamelodi Hospital twice before he eventually died on February 11.
However, a death certificate issued two days later indicated he died of natural causes.
Tau was supposed to be buried last weekend in his birthplace in the North West, but the family decided to postpone the burial until the matter had been resolved.
Family spokesman and Tau’s cousin, Pastor JP Davids, said: “It is not possible that the cause of the death can be classified as natural. The township went on a rampage following his death and the shop owner offered compensation. How can the cause of the death be natural?”
Davids said the family inquired from the doctor who treated him and were told his heart, liver and kidneys had failed. “We demand that a post-mortem be conducted and will not rest until the there is a conclusion the matter has been rectified. We will take it to the highest authority if we have to.
“At the moment, we cannot even lay charges against the perpetrator because the death is perceived to have been due to natural causes,” he said. He added that they would meet the police, hospital and witnesses in Refilwe to try and get to the bottom of the issue.
Simon Zwane, spokesman for the Heath Department in Gauteng, said it would be unethical and irregular for a doctor to change the information that had been submitted to Home Affairs, and on which the issuing of a death certificate was based.
Zwane said this was because doctors made informed decisions based on the treatment the patient received, and taking all medical issues into consideration.
Ronnie Mamoepa, of the Department of Home Affairs, said Tau’s family should refer the matter back to the health authorities. He said the department only processed information that had been supplied by the doctors.
According to the South African Medical Association, however, if Tau’s death was a result of the assault, then it was not natural and the death certificate should state it as such.
The association has advised the family to go back to the place where the certificate was issued, or take the matter up with the police.