By Ray Bande
CHIPINGE – The mass burial of 17 of the 24 Chisumbanje ethanol tanker explosion victims which was scheduled for yesterday was suspended after relatives of the deceased insisted that police identify the charred corpses.
The relatives initially agreed to proceed with burial after failing to identify the bodies. They however, had a change of heart following consultations.
In an interview here yesterday, Chipinge District Administrator Mr Edgars Seenza confirmed the change of programme. Mr Seenza, who met the grieving family members, said a decision was taken for forensic tests to be conducted.
“At the moment, all mass burials have been suspended because, for now, we have relatives of the deceased calling for forensic tests to ascertain the identity of the bodies. Police are working flat out to ensure the identities of the 17 are established.
“However, we can confirm that eight bodies that were positively identified have been collected for burial,” he said.
The identified bodies were Darikai Muyambo, Blessing Nokutenda Magwagwa, Tracy Mtetwa, Beulah Mashapa, Charles Chandengerwa, Nyasha Nafelani, Winnie Muyambo, Prosper Chandengerwa, Ngarwo Jakopo, Venencia Dzapasi, Viola Dzapasi and Kudzai Chandengerwa.
The Muyambo family is believed to have been leading calls for the mass burials. The remainder of the bodies was excluded as feuding erupted over the identification of the bodies.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) profiling would have helped identify the horribly burnt victims, but Zimbabwe does not have a DNA forensic laboratory even though the technological breakthrough was made in the mid-1980s.
DNA profiling (also called DNA testing, DNA typing, or genetic fingerprinting) is a technique employed by forensic scientists to assist in the identification of individuals by their respective DNA profiles.
Director of pathology services in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Maxwell Hove told our sister paper The Herald on Friday that authorities were working on ensuring the tests are conducted locally.
“The issue is being dealth with and we are trying to come up with the Coroner Law to be able to conduct DNA tests in the country. Government will pass the law soon in order to resolve the issue.”
The accident occurred last Wednesday at the 206km-peg along the Tanganda-Chiredzi Highway when a truck ferrying mourners collided head-on with the tanker, resulting in an inferno. Mr Clifford Muyambo’s corpse which was scheduled for burial the following morning, was also burnt. Manica Post