Joburg CBD fire victims remain unidentified due to lack of IDs

The reason for the delay in the identification of some of the bodies of Joburg residents who recently died in an inferno has been attributed to the unavailability of identity documents.

This was revealed by the Gauteng department of health spokesperson, Motalatale Modiba.

On August 31, the fire engulfed an illegally occupied and abandoned government-owned building in the city centre.

The building , which was used by the apartheid government to control black lives through the native affairs department, was leased as a shelter for abused women. It was later hijacked after the conclusion of the lease by building hijackers who rented it to desperate people and collected rent without paying rates and services, water and electricity.

Seventy-seven people , including 12 children, were killed and 88 were injured in one of the deadliest fires in South African history.

Modiba said only 37 of the 77 bodies had been identified and released to their families for burial a month after they died.

He said the identification process revealed that of the identified victims, 16 victims were from Malawi, two from Mozambique, four from Zimbabwe and 15 South Africans.

“The challenges were that most foreign nationals were undocumented, which delays the identification process,” said Modiba.

He indicated that the number of the claimed bodies had been reduced as most families claimed more than one body.

 As a result, he said, police were conducting DNA tests, which would help to identify the remaining bodies in the mortuaries.

“[The] majority of the identified bodies at this stage are foreign nationals, although it is early to conclude while awaiting other DNA results.

“Some of the identified victims have already been returned to their families to be buried.”

The Johannesburg CBD inferno tragedy was followed by another fire in Hillbrow just opposite the police station, destroying the building.

This occurred three days after the fire at the South African Revenue Service building, also located in the CBD. No serious injuries were reported.

Mkhulu Ibrahim Khoza, the director of the Shobo Elikhulu Institute for Spiritual Healing, said spiritual cleansing services was urgently needed to prevent
further incidents.

“This demonstrates that the situation has angered the ancestors of those who have been the victims of persistent criminal acts in that CBD,” said Khoza.

Khoza believes these fire disasters should serve as a strong message to the political administration of the day, which should not be ignored.

He added that civil society organisations, traditional authorities and religious entities should speak out.

“While the government is busy addressing the issue and planning to avoid similar disasters in the future, spiritual healers should also help by purifying the city to appease the angry ancestors of the victims.

“Things like these deserve rapid attention, which is why I believe spiritual healers and leaders should act quickly and do everything they can to preserve the nation, using the knowledge and wisdom they have.

“In addition to the curse that already lingers over the CBD, the fact that more than 70 people were killed in the same spot has exacerbated the matter,” Khoza said.


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