Civil Unrest: MEC visits Phoenix morgue twice after rumours about killings
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DURBAN - HEALTH MEC Nomagugu Simelane visited the Phoenix Medico-Legal Mortuary twice in three days following rumours surrounding the mortuary and killings in Phoenix.
Simelane visited the mortuary on Wednesday after reports of there being more than 300 or 500 bodies there and visited it again on Friday to check on the backlog as well as the increase in the number of affected families, and to ensure that they were receiving the best service, in the correct manner.
Simelane said she felt it was necessary to explain the mortuary’s role, how it got bodies and the areas it served because rumours still circulated that all bodies at the mortuary were from Phoenix killings during the unrest.
The mortuary, which is the biggest one in KwaZulu-Natal, can take 500 bodies.
The mortuary only looked for the cause of death when bodies were brought in.
Simelane said two weeks ago the mortuary had about 350 bodies and those had nothing to do with the unrest.
Those bodies were already at the mortuary and only afterwards did the number of bodies increase.
The bodies had stab wounds, gunshot wounds and others had internal injuries which could be from being trampled on or from beatings. The bodies also came from hospitals and areas surrounding Phoenix.
“Between Monday and Wednesday, we had about 128 bodies. On Wednesday we found that there was a backlog, bodies that had not been processed (post mortems). Of the 128 bodies, some did come from Phoenix, hospitals and homes.”
Simelane said they believed the backlog was cleared by Friday because extra staff, such as specialists, were brought in to assist.
On Friday they saw that the backlog was being dealt with and it was almost done and many families were able to get their loved ones’ remains.
“On Wednesday I had explained that of the 128 bodies, 37 bodies had not been identified. On Friday … that facility’s head said that of the 37, as of Friday, there was an addition, there were 56 unidentified bodies.”
Simelane emphasised that they could not say a person died in a specific area unless it was known that that was where the body was collected or unless it was known that a van from the mortuary fetched the body from a particular area.
She added that some people get hurt in one area and were fetched from another area, while others came from hospitals.
“All they confirm is how the person died.”