A TOTAL of 881 bodies of Zimbabweans have been repatriated from South Africa in the past three months, the country’s consul-general to South Africa, Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro, said yesterday.

This brings the number of bodies that have been repatriated from the neighbouring country since January this year to 2,299, with July recording the highest number of 327.
Mukonoweshuro said it was disturbing that the numbers have remained significantly high even after the winter season, which normally records the highest number of deaths every year.

He said in winter, the major causes of death are diseases such as pneumonia, hepatitis B, meningitis, pulmonary TB, pneumonia hepatitis, HIV/Aids and other retro-viral diseases.
The repatriated bodies mainly pass through Plumtree and Beitbridge border posts.

“From January to date we’ve repatriated a total of 2,299 bodies of Zimbabweans who were based in South Africa. In July we repatriated 327 bodies and the number declined to 292 in August and 262 in September.

“The figures normally rise in winter but it’s worrying that they’ve remained high even after the winter season in July. Most of the deaths are caused by various illnesses while others are caused by accidents and violent killings. Sometime this month we lost about 10 Zimbabweans who died in a disused mine,” said Mukonoweshuro.

He 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,” said Mukonoweshuro.

He added that the number of Zimbabweans dying in South Africa could be higher because some were buried in the neighbouring country without the consulate’s knowledge.
He said the figures are from the six provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo, Free State, KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga as well as the North, Western and Eastern Cape.

“When Zimbabweans die here in South Africa it’s the responsibility of their families to pay for the repatriation of the bodies. Due to financial challenges some families are forced to bury their loved ones in South Africa. These deaths aren’t brought to our attention.

“Inadequate documentation is also a major challenge as it delays the repatriation of most bodies to Zimbabwe. We therefore have to engage the Registrar General’s office to verify the identities of the bodies and this process takes time,” said Mukonoweshuro.

He 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.

He urged Zimbabweans to ensure that they are adequately 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.

“For bodies that are repatriated by air, a passport belonging to the deceased, copy of the informant’s particulars and a burial order have to be produced,” he said.

Mukonoweshuro urged Zimbabweans based in South Africa to have funeral policies to avoid complications in case they die while in the neighbouring country.

“We realised that a few people have funeral policies in South Africa. We’ve engaged funeral palours in our campaigns so that we give them the opportunity to sell their policies as we try to address the challenges we encounter when repatriating bodies to Zimbabwe,” he said. chronicle

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