THE controversy surrounding the removal of Zanele Moyo’s heart and her subsequent burial without the organ has taken a new twist.
BY OUR STAFF
Her family is disputing claims by South African health officials that it is standard practice to remove and retain body organs for investigation to determine the cause of death where there is need to.
Zanele, the daughter of Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo, was found dead in her flat in Cape Town last month.
On Thursday, the Western Cape Health Department’s deputy director of communications, Mark van der Heever was quoted by the Cape Times as saying: “The pathologist followed standard procedure and has not been suspended or expelled.”
He said forensic pathologists practising within the Forensic Pathologist Services were mandated to conduct a medico-legal investigation into all deaths that were admitted to its facilities, adding that Zanele’s case was subjected to a police investigation in terms of the Inquest Act.
But Moyo’s family, through their lawyer, Terrence Hussein of Hussein Ranchhod & Co Legal Practitioners yesterday said they only discovered that Zanele’s heart was missing after a second autopsy was done in Harare.
“The family had an opportunity to speak to the forensic pathologist on the day the post-mortem was carried out and were informed that tissues and blood samples had been obtained from the deceased,” Hussein said.
“No mention of the heart was made by the pathologist, nor was the family’s consent sought.”
Hussein said a written complaint was sent to the Western Cape Health Department about this and other “tardy” aspects to the first post-mortem and written confirmation of (receipt of) the complaint was received.
“The Forensic Department did not make the revelation to us or the family that they indeed had removed the heart and that this was legally in order. The painful fact has only been revealed by the Forensic Department to the press,” he said.
Hussein said the Western Cape health department has not, either in writing or through its communication to the press, indicated for what purpose they have retained Zanele’s heart.
“Had it not been for the second post-mortem requested by the family due to the inconclusive and tardy initial autopsy conducted in Cape Town, this illegality would never have come to light and those behind it would have gotten away with it and perpetrated this act in future cases,” he said.
“We do not find any support in the law for the suggestion that the surreptitious removal of body parts without reference to the family is standard practice.”
Police minister Nathi Nhleko’s spokesman, Musa Zondi, is quoted in Cape Times saying: “We are not going to comment on this. We gave the family the correct route to follow and they chose to speak to the media.”
But Hussein said the Police minister had been misinformed.
He said at no time since the date of the autopsy had the South African Police Services contacted the family to update them on investigations.
Hussein said having met with frustrating silence on the status of the investigation, on November 2, he was instructed by the family to file a complaint to Saps Head Office Complaints Unit, but up to now no acknowledgement or response has been forthcoming.