Durban - A grieving KwaMashu mother, whose baby died two days after birth, was devastated to discover the infant’s body had been stored in a home chest freezer in an illegal funeral parlour, along with packets of meat, chicken feet and giblets.
Responding to a tip-off, police made the grisly find when they raided the Mabinda Funeral Parlour in P-Section at around midday on Saturday.
They found two bodies in the chest freezer. One was identified as Owami, the daughter of Zola Nguse.
The other, about five months old, has not yet been identified.
According to police investigators, two more bodies of babies had been in the freezer on Friday, but burials for them had since taken place.
They also suspect Thandiwe Wendy Dladla, the owner of Mabinda Funeral Parlour, of dealing in body parts.
Police spokesman Vincent Mdunge said Dladla would be charged with contravening the Human Tissue Act.
Nguse told the Sunday Tribune she had paid Dladla R4 000 for the storage and burial of Owami, but the burial will have to wait until police finalise their investigations.
Owami was born prematurely at the King Edward VIII Hospital on Wednesday and died two days later.
An uncle of Nguse said: “We trusted Dladla. We believed she ran an authentic funeral parlour. This is not ethical. We made extensive plans for the funeral. Family will be flying in for the funeral, some from Britain. We don’t know what to do.”
Dladla, who arrived at the scene a few hours after numerous calls from police, told a policeman she saved R120 by storing the babies on her own premises. She usually paid R60 for each body stored at another nearby parlour.
Earlier, when one of the investigators telephoned Dladla, asking her to report to the secured crime scene, she said: “I’m not available now. I’m at the doctor. You need to make an appointment if you want to see me.”
The officer’s response was: “You will have to pay for the time and resources deployed here. Police don’t make appointments to speak to suspects.”
According to Mdunge, Dladla’s husband previously ran the funeral parlour, which was certified.
When he died, his wife took over the operation but subsequently lost her accreditation with the Department of Health.
She then continued to run the parlour illegally.
The Sunday Tribune arrived at Dladla’s parlour, run out of a house on a busy intersection, just as police entered.
Two stunned employees looked on as police raided an interleading garage. A run-down fridge facility, which would have been used to store dead bodies, stood next to the garage.
The freezer in which the babies were kept was at one end of the garage. Chicken feet, tripe, packets of sausages and a water bottle were found in the freezer. One baby was wrapped up, while the face of the other was visible.
Dladla told investigators the packets of meat were bought for her grandmother, who forgot to collect them.
Nguse said the family had never checked where the infant was being kept.
While police were waiting for Dladla to arrive, Nguse called, seeking an explanation.
“You need to explain what you’ve put us through. We need answers,” said Nguse.
Thami Nguse, the child’s grandmother, described the incident as “bad luck”.
“Why must everything go wrong like this? Is it not enough that we lost our grandchild? Why must we go through this?
“We have become the laughing stock of the community.”