South Africa: Gauteng: Grieving families enter the Germiston mortuary where workers have downed tools saying they lack protective clothing. Picture: Itumeleng English/ African News Agency(ANA)
Grieving families who have relatives lying at the Germiston mortuary in Ekurhuleni are fuming after being told not to arrange funerals for this weekend as bodies will not be released.

This is after forensic pathologists went on strike since Monday over a lack of protective gear.

Bodies at the facility are piling up while families struggle to get answers from the mortuary's management on when the bodies would be released so that they could start planning funerals.

Families told The Star on Thursday that they were incurring costs running into thousands of rand owing to the delay.

Phindile Thela said she arrived at the mortuary on Sunday from Diepdale in Amsterdam, Mpumalanga, to collect her deceased son.

Her son Patrice Msibi, 37, was stabbed to death in Palm Ridge the previous night.

“We were told that pathologists were not working. My children and sisters went back and returned on Monday. We have been asking for places to sleep in other people's houses. We have run out of food and money,” she said.

“Our undertaker came from Mpumalanga on Monday to pick up the body but had to turn back because the autopsy had not been done.

"The undertaker charged us R4500. Where will I get the money when I still have to bury my son?” Thela said.

Angry families yesterday cornered cluster manager Moeketsi Ramatsa, demanding to see the acting chief executive, MP Morule.

Ramatsa confirmed that forensic pathologists did not have safety equipments.

“We need more gloves. We need other protective clothing. We are still busy in a meeting and we will get back to you,” he said.

Bheki Nkosi, an angry family member from Tembisa, said: “Today is the day. We are not going anywhere.”

Police had to be called in to calm the situation.

The body of Mphoentle Monyane, 17, who allegedly committed suicide, is among those still waiting for an autopsy examination.

Monyane’s relative Thapelo Sibeko said they had been coming to the mortuary since Monday, when the shutdown began.

“We have not been able to get any help. We are just turned away and told to come back the next day,” Sibeko said.

Members of the South African Liberated Public Sector Workers Union (Salipswu) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union said they were not on strike but were just refusing to work without personal protective equipment.

Labour unions said their members could not continue risking their lives.

Salipswu Gauteng organiser Victor Chukudu said the management pushes them  away. 

"Members do not have protective equipment which would enable them to perform their duties.

“It is not allowed in terms of the occupational health and safety policy. They are using cutting equipment which can put their lives in danger,” Chukudu noted.