1 418 Zimbabwean dead bodies repatriated from South Africa
A total of 1,418 bodies of Zimbabweans were repatriated from South Africa between January and June this year, an official said yesterday. Zimbabwe’s consul-general to South Africa, Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro said the major destinations for the bodies were Matabeleland region and Masvingo province. “The major destinations are mainly Plumtree, Bulawayo, Tsholotsho, Nkayi, Gwanda, Beitbridge and Matobo in the Matabeleland region as well as Zaka, Chiredzi, Mwenezi and Bikita in Masvingo Province.
“You’ll note that most of the people die in winter and the major causes are disease such as, broncho pneumonia, hepatitis B, meningitis, pulmonary TB, pneumonia hepatitis, HIV/Aids and other retro-viral diseases,” he said.
Mukonoweshuro said on average, a total of 100 bodies were being repatriated a month to Zimbabwe for burial.
He said the number of Zimbabweans dying in South Africa could be higher because some were buried in that country without the consulate’s knowledge.
“In January, we processed reparation documents for 182 people, February 172, March 276, April 252, May 216 and 320 in June.
“These died of various causes including road accidents and illness. You’ll note that some people travel while they’re already ill. We want to urge Zimbabweans to ensure that they are documented when they travel to South Africa. This makes it easy for us to quickly identify them, in the event that they die. Relatives of the deceased are also advised to approach the consulate in cases of deaths so that they’re assisted with documents and directed to reputable funeral parlours,” he said.
Mukunoweshuro said the consulate’s staff requires a national identification document especially a passport of the deceased, non-infectious disease certificate, embalming certificate, death certificate, postmortem report and a letter from the Department of Home Affairs (South Africa) for them to process the repatriation certificates.
Mukonoweshuro said those travelling by road need a birth certificate or national identification documents.
“For bodies that fly it’s strictly a passport and we also need a copy of the informant’s particulars and a burial order,” he said.
The repatriated bodies mainly pass through Plumtree and Beitbridge border posts.
According to a South Africa-based medical doctor who preferred anonymity, there is an increase in the number of Zimbabweans seeking healthcare in the neighbouring country. The doctor, however, said the numbers cannot be quantified.
“It’s quite apparent from the statistics presented above that quite a significant difference is noted between the major causes of death which is infection than any others.
“The other causes of death are not as common like gunshots and other work related injuries. The trend seems to be worse in winter months because the weak immune systems of HIV infected patients makes them fail to cope with the further exposure to cold,” he said.
He said those who succumbed to the cold temperatures where mainly from poor communities that live in squatter camps and having no adequate cover at night.
“Being an HIV and TB doctor in Johannesburg, I’ve noticed a significant rise in cases of multi-drug resistant TB, among all people, especially those with HIV infection.
“This is noted in all populations that live in crowded conditions in the squatter camps. This trend has risen sharply in the past three years in Johannesburg,” said the doctor. chronicle