6 things to know about the M1 Highway corpse shock

16 November 2017 - 07:18 By Katharine Child

The transport of 16 deceased adult bodies and 26 stillborn babies in paupers' coffins from Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital to a cemetery led to an accident on the M1 South in Johannesburg on Wednesday‚ slowing traffic for hours.

Here is what you need to know

- Investigation

Gauteng MEC for Health Gwen Ramokgopa promised "a full investigation" into the incident.

She said the investigation would include looking at why Charlotte Maxeke Hospital mortuary staff signed off for unclaimed bodies to be transported in an "open trailer".

Ramokgopa attended the scene of the coffin accident late on Wednesday afternoon and spoke to journalists. Hospital staff would also have to account‚ she said. "The [hospital] manager must make sure funeral parlours that transport bodies are properly registered. We will get to the bottom of it."

- Authorised transport?

The owner of the vehicle that transported the bodies‚ Aaron Mabuza‚ claimed he had proper documentation for transporting the dead and showed it to a TimesLIVE reporter.

The list had most of the names of the deceased he was transporting and it was on a Gauteng Department of Health and Social Development letterhead.

- Open trailer

Mabuza admitted that perhaps he was at fault for using an open trailer to transport bodies.

He accused City of Johannesburg officials of defaming him by saying he didn't have proper paperwork.

"Maybe they [officials] can talk about the trailer. Maybe I am wrong for using the trailer. The wheels of that trailer‚ they just came off‚" he said.

- Falling wheels

Two wheels of the hired trailer dislodged‚ which alerted Johannesburg metro police to the vehicle.

Mabuza used a minibus and a rented trailer to transport the 42 coffins.

- Temporary employees

His six workers were temporary.

One worker told TimesLIVE it was his first time on the job. The workers take body bags from the hospital mortuary fridges and place them in provided coffins‚ Mabuza confirmed.

He and workers said they came from a neighbourhood in Klipspruit. Officials from the City of Johannesburg told TimesLIVE that the workers did not appear to have proper gloves or masks to deal with dead bodies.

- Traffic chaos

The scene slowed down traffic on the Johannesburg M1 South near Wits University for hours and led to a temporary highway closure during peak afternoon traffic. Ramokgopa apologised to Gauteng residents for the delays.

"It has been an inconvenience to motorists … and the economy."

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