Controversy surrounds the alleged theft and cremation of the lifeless body of Matodzi Steven Tshikota (26) of Tshiozwi from a government mortuary in Gauteng Province.

Less than four months after Tshikota was employed as a temporary worker at Pick n Pay in Jeppestown, Johannesburg, the young man from Tshiozwi was knocked down on the Soweto highway on June 2. For some reason, his family was not informed.

His body was taken to a government mortuary by the police. Realising that his brother had not returned from work, Mashudu Mukhakhisi, who was staying with the deceased in Orlando East, notified other family members. According to the deceased's elder brother, Rudzani Justice Tshikota, together with his mother, they opened a missing docket at the Orlando SAPS. At that time, we were searching for him in hospitals, police stations and mortuaries, but to no avail. Life was bitter and we spent sleepless nights as a family. We've even tried visiting traditional healers to assist us in finding my brother through their spiritual powers, but it never worked, he said.

On receiving the deceased's fingerprint results, the Orlando SAPS discovered that he came from the Sinthumule area. They contacted the Tshilwavhusiku police in a bid to track his family or relatives; fortunately, the information was received by a female police officer from Tshiozwi, who immediately notified the deceased's family members.

As if that was not enough, when the bereaved family went to Orlando police station, they were again shocked when the police informed them that the body of their son had been stolen from a government mortuary in Baragwanath. The police further told us that my brother's body had been taken to a private mortuary in Moroka, but on our arrival at the private mortuary, we were informed that the body of Steven had been taken to the crematorium operators in Lens or Lenasia, he said.

At Lens, they discovered that the body of Steven had been cremated. The crematorium operators even showed us the photographs of my brother's dead body, which they took before cremating him. To us that was a huge shock, because we don't believe in cremation; I mean, it is totally against my culture. As of now, I am not sure if the ashes are those of my brother, he said.

He said that, as a family, they are not concerned about the woman who knocked down Steven, because she stopped and informed the police about the accident. We are concerned about how the body of my brother got stolen from the government mortuary and who gave the instruction to cremate the body, he said.

Two people (Zimbabweans) who allegedly claimed the body of Steven from the police have been arrested. They are expected to appear in court in Johannesburg on July 25. The two suspects, according to Justice, went to the Orlando police station to make an affidavit so that they could claim R100 000 from an insurance company. They used the deceased's names in their affidavit. After Steven fingerprints were released, the police seem to realise that the two were not the real relatives of my brother. The police immediately phoned the two suspects requesting them to come and receive their R100,000 cheque and, on their arrival, they were taken into custody, said Justice.

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