Johannesburg - As many as 4 000 bodies have remained unclaimed or not identified at Gauteng state mortuaries in the past three years.
This is according to a written reply by Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu to a question by the DA’s Jack Bloom in the legislature.
Department spokesperson Steve Mabona on Tuesday confirmed that 11 government mortuaries across Gauteng still held 4 000 bodies either unclaimed or unidentified.
However, Mabona said a plan to deal with the increase in the number of unclaimed bodies was being devised.
“The Gauteng Forensic Pathology Services is developing a comprehensive mortuary management system. Identification of missing persons will be one of the functions of the new system,” he said.
He said normally bodies should stay in state mortuaries for 21 days before being given a pauper’s funeral.
“We publish notices in newspapers to alert people of the unclaimed bodies or missing persons.”
Bloom said Mahlangu’s response indicated an increasing number of unclaimed bodies in the past three years.
From April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013, 1 603 bodies were unidentified and 242 not claimed; April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014, 1 254 bodies were unidentified and 334 not claimed, and April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015, 1 272 bodies were unidentified and 403 unclaimed.
Many factors contributed to unclaimed bodies, including the lack of authentic identification documentation, foreign nationals and South Africans from outside Gauteng who travelled without documents.
Socio-economic reasons including resource constraints for burial and families living far from where people die also contribute, Mabona said.
Bloom said the Springs mortuary had the highest number of unclaimed bodies over the stipulated years (203), followed by Pretoria (181), Roodepoort (145) and Joburg (119).
“I hope an internet system is implemented soon so that bodies can be identified in this way,” said Bloom.