Hospital in baby cremation scam

HARARE - The disappearance of the body of a five-day-old baby at Chitungwiza Hospital has raised fears that the bodies are being used for ritual purposes in the satellite town.

Sharon Muponda’s baby is said to have been brought to Chitungwiza Hospital on the afternoon of April 3. It was pronounced dead on arrival.

Muponda and her husband were advised to come back the following morning in order to give personnel at Chitungwiza Hospital time to conduct a postmortem to ascertain the cause of death.

But when the couple visited the hospital the following morning to take the baby for burial, they were told that their son’s body could not be found.

“We were made to sign affidavits confirming the death of the child but as we were filling out the forms, my aunt who was with me was called by someone from the hospital who suggested that we cremate the body,” an emotional Muponda told the Weekend Post.

“My aunt came to upraise me of the discussion but I flatly refused. I told her that I preferred to bury my child.”

She added: “I started feeling uneasy when they kept on insisting that we cremate the child. They told us that it would not cost us anything to cremate the body but it would certainly be expensive to bury it.”

The grieving family was then taken to the Public Relations Office where they were informed that the body of baby Tavonga had been accidentally cremated.

“We then demanded the clothes and the shawl that covered Tavonga and we were told the child was cremated with the items. This was really strange because I know that when children are going to be cremated, they are stripped naked and placed into bags before they are cremated,” Muponda said.

After suspecting foul play, the grieving family went to report the matter at Makoni Police Station.

But police insisted the matter was of a civil nature and and were directed to the civil courts.

They were however, advised to return for a meeting on Monday the following week only to have it postponed to Wednesday.

In response the Chitungwiza Hospital chief executive officer Obadiah Moyo said, “It’s correct the baby was one day old and was booked in our mortuary. However, according to our record the body was not signed out.

“Our staff say the body was mistakenly taken for incineration. The father was satisfied with the explanation; however, relatives are pushing the matter forward.”

“Comfort to the public is essential in view of the matter. We have instituted a thorough investigation and are seeking assistance from the police.”

This however, is not the first time that the biggest referral hospital in the satellite town which is home to at least one million people has been implicated in such incidents.

In 2010, a mortuary supervisor Abisha Ratimba appeared before the courts after he refused to release 46 corpses for burial unless he received four caskets and $200 as kick back.

Again in 2003, at the height of the country’s fuel crisis, two morgue workers “borrowed” corpses which they used in a scam to get fuel. — Weekend Post

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