A tearful Ntombifuthi Dladla walked out of the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings as a witness testified that her brother’s body was badly decomposed and smelling when it was delivered at the Mamelodi Regional Hospital.
Daniel Buda, who works at the Mamelodi hospital as the admin officer services, took the stand on Thursday and disputed claims that Joseph Gumede came to their mortuary in a good state in August 2016.
He explained that they had received a call from the Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre (CCRC) asking them if they could take Gumede’s body as they had ran out of space in their mortuary.
CCRC is one of the NGOs which admitted patients from Gauteng’s Life Esidemeni during the marathon Gauteng health department project to relocate mentally ill patients. More than 140 patients died, many due to severe neglect at the largely unlicenced and ill-equipped NGO facilities, while 59 patients are still unaccounted for.
Buda said he knocked off daily at around 5pm and Gumede’s body hadn’t arrived yet. However, when he reported to work the next day, Gumede’s body was there.
“The next morning when I came to work, I received a call from the mortuary telling me that there’s a smell coming from the mortuary.”
As Buda was giving his account of details, Gumede’s sister broke down in tears.
Buda said he went to inspect what was happening and when he checked Gumede’s body it was smelling and decomposed.
Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke who is presiding over the arbitration asked Buda to give clarity on the condition of the body.
“Observations from us was that the body was old. It had water droplets and a smell.”
At that point, Dladla walked out crying hysterically.
Buda explained to the dispute resolution committee that the hospital had a new and an old mortuary. The old mortuary had 40 storage shelves, while the new mortuary had 52 storage shelves.
He said the mortuary was in good working condition. He described it as safe and operational.
He continued to explain that Gumede’s body was received at the Mamelodi mortuary on 16 August 2016. He was kept in the old mortuary for another two months while pathologists were performing a postmortem.
He said the family came to collect Gumede’s body on 13 February 2017.
Dladla has already testified that they were notified about her brother’s death only seven months later. She said that by the time her brother was finally buried, maggots were coming out of his body.
Previously, the arbitration heard testimony from Nwagu Rasidzoge who had dismissed claims that the CCRC morgue was crowded and that some corpses were handed to families in a bad state.
He had insisted that Gumede’s body was in good condition when it was referred to Mamelodi Hospital mortuary.
Moseneke asked Buda whether Rasidzoge was lying.
“I can’t answer for him, but I know the body was already decomposed,” Buda replied.
Moseneke requested Buda to explain the condition of Gumede’s body when the family came to collect his remains.
“When the family came to collect it, it looked very bad. You could tell that all the fluids had left the body, and it was just skin and bone.”
– African News Agency (ANA)