Anguish over body buried without legs

Sipho Masombuka

Sipho Masombuka

A Mozambican national who burnt to death in a shack fire in Mamelodi East has been buried in his home country but his legs are still in the government mortuary in Gezina, Pretoria.

This is because of serious bungling by government mortuary officials who stored the legs separately from the body.

Almerado Jose Mahiel, 26, burnt to death in a shack fire on September 7. The mortuary officials who collected the body left the legs at the scene. They collected the legs the following day after they were spotted by the family from which Mahiel was renting the shack. Instead of storing the legs together with the body, the legs were placed in a box and stored separately.

Mahiel's mother-in-law, Maria Kekana, told Sowetan that they were notified by an undertaker on the day the body was to be taken to Mozambique that the legs were missing.

"But we had to send the body to Mozambique without the legs.

"All the arrangements had been made and paid for. We don't know what to do now that his legs have been found," said Kekana.

Mahiel's uncle, Ananias Selawule, said: "My nephew's legs have to be re-united with his body. We struggled to pay for embalming and transport and have to do it again."

Sowetan accompanied Kekana to the government mortuary yesterday morning. A senior forensic officer at the Gezina government mortuary said he could not understand why the legs had been stored separately from the body.

He promised to call Kekana as soon as he had definitely found the legs.

He called Kekana later in the afternoon as promised and told her that the charred legs had been located.

"He said the legs were in a box in one of the fridges. He said we should arrange with an undertaker to collect the legs," said Kekana.