A total of 846 bodies were not identified in Gauteng mortuaries from January to August this year, the Democratic Alliance said today.
“This was disclosed by Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature,” DA Gauteng health spokesperson Jack Bloom said in a statement.
According to Mahlangu, many of these bodies were foreigners and people from other parts of South Africa who had lost contact with their families, he said.
Families who could not afford to bury their deceased were also responsible.
Bloom said there was a total of 1 445 unidentified bodies for last year, which was slightly lower than the 1 652 unclaimed bodies in 2008.
“It’s all very tragic, but the scandal is that the website that was promised in 2006 to assist relatives in identifying bodies has still not been set up,” he said.
According to Bloom, the website had been developed by Italian experts free of charge but it had run into administrative problems.
“The excuse now given is that the Gauteng Health Department wants to link up with the system run by the national health department, but has not been given the source code for this,” he said.
Gauteng health department spokesperson Simon Zwane said the website had been working for the past year but was unavailable for the past month as it was being redesigned.
“We are planning to relaunch the site. Previously it was a separate site but now we plan to integrate it into the Gauteng health website,” he said.
He said it was hoped the website would be back up within the next two weeks.
“We have however continued to send out notices on provincial and regional radios as well as community newspapers and notice boards, with lists of names and pictures of people who have died and remain unidentified,” Zwane said.
“With the radio it’s very effective as many people are listening; with the website people have to come to the internet.”
Zwane said notices had been made on radio stations broadcasting to other provinces as many families of the deceased did not live in Gauteng.