South Africa

'Gale Street Mortuary' set to move to Phoenix

'Gale Street Mortuary' set to move to Phoenix
Durban - THE ball has started rolling towards the closure of the beleaguered Magwaza Maphalala (Gale) Street Mortuary.

This was confirmed by the chairperson of the Health Portfolio Committee, Nomakiki Majola, after several reports about the possible closure.

In October, members of the committee conducted oversight visits to health institutions, including the mortuary.

Majola said the decision was made during a meeting with the health department two weeks ago, after it gave a presentation based on conditions at the mortuary. These included concerns about the infrastructure, as well as the human resources operations.

“During the meeting we agreed for the closure of Gale Street, moving the functions to Phoenix, which is fine,” Majola said. “Their (the health department’s) action was to formulate a task team to deal with the process of closing Gale Street.”

She said the team comprised the labour department, the legal unit from the health department, and officials from the health committee.

“The processes towards the closure have already been started. No date has been set because there is a process,” she said.

Majola said complaints regarding moving the mortuary would be addressed by the task team, but all factors would be taken into consideration.

“We are not closing it because of the actions of the employees, but it is the condition of the Gale Street Mortuary we are talking about. The employees can be taken to another mortuary, and they will come up with this very (human resources) problem, but not if the mortuary is within the requirements legally,” Majola said.

Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa chairperson Halalisani Gumede said the union did not want the mortuary to be closed because it would cause the workers to be further ill-treated

“I don’t think it’s a wise decision. The ANC preach that they take the services to the people, but you cannot take a service like Gale Street, a big mortuary in KZN, and say you are closing it. And it has a lab upstairs, which was recently built. A lab costs millions to build,” Gumede said.

Save Gale Street Mortuary Committee chairperson Nkosentsha Shezi said the committee had not been engaged in discussions regarding the closure of the mortuary.

Shezi said the location of the mortuary made it convenient for people coming from other provinces and other parts of Durban.

Public transport access at Gale Street was better than anywhere else in Durban.

“If there are plans to close Gale Street Mortuary, we believe it is something that should be canvassed at the steering committee, where funeral stakeholders and all government departments that are involved in funerals are represented,” Shezi said.

He said the announcement concerning the mortuary’s closure was made without the committee’s knowledge.

The committee had instructed lawyers to check what legal action it could take to compel the government to adhere to the culture and ethos of putting people first.

KZN Funeral Directors Association spokesperson Logan Chetty said deciding to close the mortuary was a unilateral decision by the health department, and none of the role players had been consulted.

“Closing the mortuary would destroy the funeral business. The community would suffer. People from the south would have to go to the north. It’s really far. People come from far and wide, and some people come from the Eastern Cape.

“We will stand firm and fight to the bitter end to see it doesn’t close,” Chetty said.

The health department had not responded to questions by the time of publication.