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MEC dismisses reports of hundreds of bodies piling up at Phoenix mortuary

South Africa - Durban - 15 October 2019 - Facility Manager Nosipho Gumede at Gale street mortuary explains to the health officials how the mortuary operates. Picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency(ANA)

South Africa - Durban - 15 October 2019 - Facility Manager Nosipho Gumede at Gale street mortuary explains to the health officials how the mortuary operates. Picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jul 21, 2021


KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane has dismissed widespread false reports concerning the number of bodies that are being kept at the Phoenix Medico-Legal Mortuary (MLM).

Simelane said in a statement 128 bodies are being processed at the facility – not 500 or 300 – and that not all bodies are linked to last week’s civil unrest

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’’Contrary to reports, the mortuary – which serves the wider eThekwini area and not just Phoenix - is currently processing the mortal remains of 128 people. These bodies may not necessarily be linked to the civil unrest from last week,’’ she said.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said yesterday he had boosted policing in Phoenix, in northern Durban, calling for an end to vigilantism in the community and racial profiling, saying that this was criminal and would not be tolerated.

He confirmed that 20 people were killed there last week during what the minister referred to as "the failed insurrection".

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Speaking from the mortuary earlier this afternoon, Simelane said the facility has 35 bodies that have not been identified. She urged families that are missing their loved ones to visit Phoenix MLM, where they will be assisted with identification of bodies.

Reflecting on the visit, the MEC said: “We decided to come and see the facility to see for ourselves what is happening, because we understand there has been quite an outcry about the fact that there’s a backlog in relation to families that wanted their loved ones who passed on during the unrest last week.

“When we came here we were able to get a briefing on what has happened. I do want to indicate that as of this morning, we have a backlog of 128 bodies.

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’’But this backlog includes people who were killed or passed away elsewhere, in incidents that are not necessarily related to the unrest. It also includes people who passed on in the different hospitals within the catchment area of Phoenix.

“Normally, this facility receives about 70 bodies a week, so when you compare the normal figures with what we currently have, you can clearly see that there is a steep increase. But we are not in a position to indicate that all of those bodies are as a result of unrest.

“We have been hearing there are more than 300 bodies as a result of the unrest. So far, that is not true. It’s 128 bodies that we have received.

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’’But also, we cannot necessarily say all of them are as a result of the unrest. We do want to also call on the families who have loved ones that are missing, and have not been able to detect their whereabouts…

’’We have 35 bodies in the facility, that have not been identified by the families. For as long as families do not identify them, we are unable to process them, and therefore can’t get post-mortems out.

“So, we are calling on all the families with people who are missing to come out to our facility and identify them.

“I also want to indicate that we have put in place a programme together with the SAPS whereby the families that are missing people don’t necessarily have to go to their nearest police station. They can just come here to Phoenix mortuary. There will be police on site from 7am to 3.30pm.

’’For those who have safety concerns, we have an agreement with the SAPS, whereby they can contact General Chirwa on 079 5000 288, who will then facilitate their safe escorting to the facility and back.

“We certainly do have a backlog because of the number of additional bodies that we have received. Therefore, we have identified a number of pathologists from different facilities, and have requested them to come and assist at this facility in particular.

“We are going to be utilising this facility and a few others so that we fast-track the process. We believe that by Friday, we would have concluded the backlog, and will then start with the bodies that have been coming in from Friday moving forward.”


Related Topics:

Civil Unrest