Joburg fire: Survivors claim they were charged R700 to release bodies from mortuary
But the Gauteng health department says its forensic pathology service does not charge for storage of bodies or postmortem examinations.
Police and security keep watch outside the building in Marshalltown, 6 September 2023, where a fire claimed 77 lives last week. Picture: Michel Bega/The Citizen
Families of the Joburg fire victims claim they have been asked to pay money to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones from the government-owned Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Service.
Speaking to Newzroom Afrika on Wednesday, a man claimed he went to the Department of Home Affairs, and, later, the Diepkloof government mortuary to retrieve the body of his daughter, only to be told he needed to pay R700 to leave with the remains.
“I went to Home Affairs and the mortuary. When I arrived at the mortuary, they told me to pay R700. Where am I going to get the R700?
“I am unemployed; where will I get the R700 to release my daughter’s remains? They said I must pay R700. Where am I going to get this R700?
“I don’t have money. My 15-year-old daughter, who was studying grade 10, died here, but they told me I must pay R700 at a government mortuary,” he said.
However, the Gauteng Department of Health says those who have been asked to pay for the release of deceased loved ones at the Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Service should report the matter to the police.
“It must be pointed out that the Gauteng FPS renders free services when it comes to storing the bodies and conducting of post-mortems. Even the DNA samples that have been drawn from the unidentifiable bodies of the tragic fire incident and the Antemortem swabs from families are free and being done by the South African Police Service (SAPS),” said the department in a statement.
Report to SAPS
“The GDoH therefore urges people who are being asked to pay for storage or the release of deceased bodies at Diepkloof mortuary or any Gauteng FPS facility to report these criminal acts to the SAPS so that the perpetrators can be brought to book.
“The Department would like to put in on record that none of the families that have already collected their deceased loved ones from the Diepkloof mortuary were asked to pay any amount.”
At least 77 people, including 12 children, died when a fire broke out in Joburg’s Usindiso building last week.