All posts by Sarah Wild

Sarah Wild is a multi-award-winning science journalist. She has worked as science editor at Business Day and the Mail & Guardian, and has published two books on African science. Wild contributes to AfricaCheck, Nature, the Guardian, City Press, the Financial Mail, Research Africa, Business Day, Undark Magazine, ITWeb, and Independent Newspaper titles, Mail & Guardian, among others.

South Africa’s Forgotten Dead

Every year, thousands of people are murdered in South Africa, at a rate that has been steadily increasing over the past three years. On average, some 50 people a day fall victim to violence at the hands of those motivated by rage, opportunity, or some dark compulsion it is difficult for others to imagine. In this three part series of investigative journalism, Sarah Wild explores how forensic scientists work to try and identify people from the most vulnerable groups, including women, children, and particularly illegal immigrants, many of whom “come down into South Africa, and they die in a field and no one is looking”, according to one forensic scientist. She then explore how they eventually get buried. Read more [...]
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South Africa’s unidentified dead

One in 10 people who pass through South Africa's Gauteng’s mortuaries is not identified. Eventually, when no one comes for them and they cannot safely be kept any longer, they are carted off en masse to a public graveyard, buried without names, and with no one to mourn them. Once in the ground, their chances of being identified and exhumed dwindle to almost nothing. Read the first part of a three part series of investigative journalism highlighting the role of forensic science in dealing with South Africa's forgotten dead. Read more [...]
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Identifying South Africa’s forgotten dead

If it wasn’t for the smell, no one would know there was a body there. The savannah grass reaches above the waists of passers-by sweating under South Africa's Gauteng summer sun. There is no data on how many of Gauteng’s 15 000 to 16 500 annual unnatural deaths are found in this way but the occurrence is common enough for these bodies to have their own moniker among the officials who dread having to deal with them: veld bodies. In the second part of a three-part investigative journalism series, we explore how forensic scientists work to identify these dead bodies. Read more [...]
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Burying the forgotten dead

Forty unclaimed bodies are to be buried in Doornkop cemetery in Soweto on this particular Tuesday morning. An undertaker confers with an official as they cross names and numbers off a list. Two men lean against bright yellow earthmovers, waiting for their cue in this burial scene. Authorities know who the people are but no family has collected the bodies for burial. The last of a three part series of articles investigating South Africa's forgotten dead focused on how unclaimed bodies eventually get buried. Read more [...]
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