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FAMILY BURIES WRONG CORPSE IN MIX-UP

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LUHLEKO – The high death rate brought about by the second wave of the coronavirus, which has resulted in funeral homes being overstretched, has resulted in a mix-up in corpses.

As it is, residents of Luhleko are reeling from shock after a Simelane family buried a woman they believed was their loved one, only to find that it was a total stranger. 

The incident occurred on Tuesday morning, when the family buried a corpse thinking it was their mother at the family burial site.

It is alleged that the family of Make Gabsile Simelane learned of the news yesterday morning, when another family visited Dups Funeral Home to collect the remains of their loved one for burial purposes.

Collected 

Upon the other family’s arrival at Dups, they were informed that the body of their loved one had in fact been collected by the Simelane family, who at that time, had already buried it, oblivious of the fact that it was not Make Gabsile. 

It was gathered that when collecting the corpse, the Simelane family did not view it within the funeral home as the COVID-19 regulations discourage such.

According to impeccable sources, the body was collected on Monday and the burial was held on Tuesday morning.

Sources close to the matter alleged that when Dups realised that the bodies had been swapped, the funeral home immediately called the Simelane family and informed them that the woman that they believed to be their mother, was in fact, the body of another woman.

Indeed when the Simelane family went to Dups, they found the body of their family member. 

After this was communicated, the sources disclosed that Dups management approached the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to request permission to exhume the body which had been buried by the Simelane family.

This was confirmed by Dups Holdings General Manager Kyle De Sousa.  He said what happened at the funeral home early this week when a corpse was released to a wrong family and buried, was an honest human error. 

This happened at the peak of death figures due to COVID-19-related ailments. The funeral parlour has been a hive of activity in recent weeks as COVID-19-related deaths are daily reported in double digits. 

“It was a human error that occurred as a result of breach of our strict identification procedures. The error occurred when a corpse was released to another family. The high numbers of corpses that our staff handle per day and night has resulted in excessive physical and mental fatigue brought about by long hours of work,” De Sousa said.

He said the error was, however, quickly rectified. De Sousa extended an apology to all concerned parties and the distress this has caused. He said after it was brought to the funeral parlour’s attention that a mistake had happened, action was immediately taken.

The general manager said the funeral parlour had engaged both families and the police on the matter. He said they came forward with the information to both families and shared it with the police.

Identify 

Notwithstanding the strict COVID-19 body burials, he said, it would assist to have the families identify the bodies properly. 

When this reporter visited the Simelane home yesterday, the women found at the home informed this reporter that they were not in a position to discuss the details of the matter with the media, as the elders of the home had left to resolve the issue. 

One of the family members informed this reporter that they could not give any additional information as their elders were not present, and had left to deal with the matter. 

When this reporter requested for the elders’ numbers, the women proceeded to request the reporter and the driver to leave the premises immediately.

On the other hand, Luhleko Headman Muzi Maseko said he received a phone call from the family in the early hours of yesterday morning, where they informed him that they had unknowingly buried the body of another woman, thinking that it was that of their mother.

He shared that he was still in a state of shock after he was informed about this, as there had been a large number of COVID-19 deaths in the area this week alone. 

Maseko said community members had converged at the family burial site after hearing the news to assist the family, however, they were advised to wait for more information from the authorities. A pained Maseko relayed that such an incident had never been reported in the community before, but stated that such incidents were bound to happen, citing that this was as a result of the COVID-19 regulations, which stated that the viewing of bodies was barred.

Guidelines 

It is worth mentioning that according to the Guidelines for Safe Management of Dead Bodies in the context of COVID-19, the viewing of a body is only by limited family members, preferably 20, while the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and rituals may be performed without touching the body in the mortuary or at home. 

Maseko commented that if it weren’t for the regulations, this unfortunate incident would not have happened.

“There will be more cases like this, because if the families cannot view their loved ones, how are they to know that it is their family member? I urge government to revisit the regulations because this will not be the last case we hear of,” he said. He further encouraged the family to stay strong, in the hope that this unfortunate incident would be resolved appropriately, and timeously.

This matter comes five months after the body of Gladness Edje was taken by unknown people from the National TB Referral Hospital morgue, after she succumbed to a COVID-19-related illness at Manzini Clinic last August. The family of Edje has since taken the government, TB Hospital and The Manzini Clinic to court over the mysterious disappearance of their mother. Similarly, in that matter, the challenge was that when the corpse was brought to the government morgue, it was only wrapped in plastic – which is a norm for people who had died after falling sick due to the virus.

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