Residents of Memel in the Free State are angry with a local mortuary after the corpse of a woman allegedly decomposed within seven days of being stored.
According to the family of Emily Nyembe, her body decomposed at a mortuary belonging to Koos Meyer.
Her stepdaughter, Nelly Nyembe, 47, said: “When we went to the mortuary to collect the body for funeral preparations, we were welcomed by the nasty smell of a rotten body.
“Then we asked what the problem was, the owner told us that they had been out of power. I asked him to open the refrigerator so I could see how bad the body was, but he refused,” she said.
“On the day of the funeral it was swollen and covered by flies. The smell was worse than that of the day before. We told him that he had refused when we wanted to see the fridges because he knew the body was actually worse than we thought,” added Nelly.
She said she had reported the matter to a local police station but had not received help.
Thoko Tshabalala, a councillor, said Meyer’s mortuary did not have municipal approval to operate.
“We went there to check if the mortuary was operating legally and found out that it was not approved by the municipality.
“We only found an employee on that day and he couldn’t respond to our questions.
“We are going to have a meeting with Meyer on February 7 and if we find him guilty then we will close that mortuary.
“We even tested the refrigerator and it was not working.”
Tshabalala said the mortuary would be temporarily closed until the February 7 meeting with Meyer.
Thabo Nkwe of Msawawa Funerals believes Meyer was operating illegally, adding that he should have taken Nyembe’s corpse to another funeral parlour.
“This is proof that this mortuary was not legal.
“I fail to understand why he would wait until a body gets decomposed while he should have taken it to other mortuaries. I think he did so because he knows he was not registered.
“This person needs to be arrested because this is also affecting our businesses,” said Nkwe.
Phuthaditjhaba police spokesperson Sergeant Mmako Mophiring said it was difficult to intervene as the mortuary was privately owned.
“The family must deal with it because this a private mortuary. They must seek advice from their lawyers on how to deal with him,” he said.
Resident Caster Sedilwane said she would stop paying for her funeral cover to Meyer’s mortuary.
Sedilwane would not disclose how much she was paying a month.
“I chose him because the payments were affordable and reasonable. I have been paying since 2010, but I am going to stop everything after what I have seen,” she said.
Meyer had not responded to calls and questions from The Sunday Independent at the time of publication.
According to the environmental health practitioner appointed in terms of National Health Act of 2003, facilities should be available for the undertakers to ensure compliance with regulation 363.
He said: “The regulations say a mortuary must provide for a preparation room for the preparation of human remains, separate change-rooms for each sex for the use by the employees employed at such premises, refrigeration facilities for the human remains and facilities for a backup source of electricity in the case of power failure.