KZN Health MEC sets the record straight on Phoenix Mortuary statistics

21 July 2021

  • Gives the correct number of bodies being processed (It's not 500 or 300, but 128)
  • Urges families with missing family members to come forward and identify their loved ones;
  • Additional forensic pathology services deployed;
  • SAPS on hand to escort families concerned for their safety, and assist with mortuary-related admin work.

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

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.

Speaking from the mortuary earlier this afternoon, the MEC revealed that the facility currently has 35 bodies that have not been identified. She made a clarion call to families that are missing their loved ones to come to 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. 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. 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 Gen. 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." ENDS Issued by the KZN Department of Health

Quick Links

This page last edited on 22 July, 2021

The materials on this website may be copied for non-commercial use as long as our copyright notice and website address are included.

Copyright 2014 - All Rights Reserved - KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

Disclaimer Website by KZN Department of Health