Bodies pile up at morgues

The festive season death toll has put state mortuaries under pressure as staff battle to cope with the high number of autopsies and to release corpses to their families for burial.

“Some of the people were stabbed to death while others died in car accidents,” Eastern Cape health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo told the Saturday Dispatch this week.

According to Kupelo, the Mthatha Forensic Pathology Mortuary has been the hardest hit with around 73 bodies arriving over the Christmas weekend alone.

Butterworth had the second highest number of corpses in the same period with around 37 bodies being delivered while Mbizana came in at third with 24.

Next was Komani with 23, Grahamstown had 20 corpses with Bhisho taking in 19 while Gelvandale and Aliwal North both had 18.

The Woodbrook pathology mortuary had around 16 corpses delivered to it over the Christmas weekend, while Lusikisiki had 13, Mount Road and Mdantsane both had 11.

Graaff-Reinet had eight corpses while New Brighton had the least number, taking delivery of seven bodies.

“The Mthatha Forensic Pathology Mortuary has been under immense pressure with families adding to the pressure as they want autopsies to be finalised so they can finalise funeral arrangements of their loved ones. “Mthatha has had to increase the number of autopsies from six to 12 in a day.”

Kupelo attributed the high number of stabbing victims to alcohol abuse.

He said while visiting some villages in the rural areas of the former Transkei region around Christmas time, he was shocked to find children as young as 10 drunk. He called for a clampdown on illegal liquor outlets which normally spring up in these areas around the festive season.

“People do not use Christmas to celebrate; instead they use it to inflict pain on one another. If society doesn’t do anything , we are standing on a time bomb,” he added.

Earlier this week Mthatha police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela said they too were concerned by the high rate of alcohol abuse, adding that the majority of victims over the Christmas weekend died as a result of quarrels fuelled by alcohol.

Eastern Cape Liquor Board bosses revealed this year that more than 700 illegal liquor outlets had been closed down across the province since last year.

The board’s chief executive officer Khanyile Maneli, addressing the public and liquor traders during the official launch of the Responsible Alcohol Consumption Festive Campaign in Mthatha at the beginning of this month, appealed to communities to assist them in uncovering illegal liquor outlets.

“We don’t have enough inspectors to help us find illegal liquor outlets,” he said at the time.

Maneli urged municipalities to enforce by-laws regulating trading hours. —