Press release

Dept of Health to escalate backlog at WC state mortuaries to Provincial legislature

The Western Cape Department of Health assured the Muslim Judicial Council (SA) that the unwritten policy to prioritise Muslim post mortems still stands at a special meeting held in Cape Town today.

The MJC called an urgent meeting with the department after receiving calls from Muslim families in Cape Town who were anxiously waiting for the bodies of deceased, due to delays in finalizing post-mortems.

The Western Cape Health MEC, Nomafrench Mbombo was present at the meeting alongside Head of the Health Department, Dr Beth Engelbrecht; Head of UCT Forensics Pathology, Professor Lorna Martin; Chief Director General Specialist and Emergency Services, Dr Saadiq Kariem; MJC President Shaykh Irafaan Abrahams, MJC first and second Deputy Presidents’, Moulana Abdul Khaliq Allie and Shaykh Riad Fataar respectively; Mufti of the MJC, Moulana Tahaa Karaan; Head of General Council (Imaamah) for Mitchell’s Plain and Northern Suburbs, Shaykh Ebrahim Gabriels and Moulana Hassiem Cassiem; member of the Senior Council (Imaarah), Kamaal Karriem; and two members of the MJC Cemetery MANCOM (undertakers), Abdullah slamang and Yaghya Hartley from the MP Islamic Trust.

The MJC requested the department rescind its decision to chronologically work through its caseload and give priority to Muslim bodies. But the department said it is plagued by a heavy caseload, is understaffed and under-resourced and cannot commit to a date when further Muslim bodies will be released. MEC Mbombo assured the MJC that the matter will be raised at provincial legislature on Wednesday to request assistance with increasing staff and equipment at the province’s mortuaries.

“I understand the morgue is backlogged and under significant strain due to the ongoing violence in this community. We understand and acknowledge this but this has been a chronic problem for which the planning and resourcing have been inadequate,” said MJC chairman of the Muslim Cemetery Board, Shaykh Riad Fataar.

“The Western Cape has been persistently labelled as one of the most violent provinces in the World and yet provincial government remained under-resourced. Alternative solutions must be sort.”

The timeous release of post-mortem examinations of Muslims is an unwritten policy spanning decades. Expedient burial is not a custom in Islam but rather a well-founded religious practice.  Delaying the burial is painful to the family and dishonours the deceased.

“Apart from Islam and Judaism, no other religion or cultural belief specifies that bodies should be buried as soon as possible. The department’s previous decision to make all wait in a queue created an inequity for these two religions,” Shaykh Fataar continued. Meanwhile, all parties concerned will keep a close eye on progress and re-assess the situation on 16 November.

For any media enquiries, please contact Mishka Daries on 021 684 4636.