Provinces bicker over rotten corpses

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has washed it hands of responsibility for the 15 badly decomposed, unidentified bodies discovered at a government mortuary in Umzimkhulu last week.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has washed it hands of responsibility for the 15 badly decomposed, unidentified bodies discovered at a government mortuary in Umzimkhulu last week.

Instead it has pointed fingers at Eastern Cape police.

It is alleged that the bodies were kept in a mortuary for more than two years.

The department said that though the mortuary was one of the institutions which had been transferred to it, it was not responsible for the bodies that had been rotting there.

Jabulani Mazibuko, operation's manager at the forensic pathology services, said his department had a policy to keep bodies for up to six weeks in the mortuaries.

This, he said, was to allow police investigations to be completed and for bodies to be identified.

"If that time lapses, the matter is referred to the police so there will be applications to local municipalities for pauper burials," he said.

Mazibuko said in the case of the 15 bodies, this happened while the transfers were taking place.

Mazibuko said the matter had been followed up with Eastern Cape authorities since last year for burial purposes.

"It is still the responsibility of the SAPS in Eastern Cape to provide documents linking each body to the documentation officially listing cause of death.

"A proper handover from Eastern Cape provincial authorities to KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health will have to be conducted," he said.

Zandra Hechter, spokesman for the Umzimkhulu police, said the matter was still under investigation by police and could not comment.

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