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What really did John Mahama say about Zongos and mortuaries?

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Several news reports claim John Mahama has said an NDC government will build at least 300 mortuaries in Zongo communities.

The NDC flagbearer in the referenced interview said the party will facilitate the establishment of mortuaries but did not give any indication that mortuaries will be situated in Zongo communities. He also did not say the number of mortuaries to be built.  

Full text

Several news reports published on websites such as Adomonline and Ghana Guardian say the flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Mahama, has promised to build over 300 mortuaries in Zongo communities across the country if he is elected in the 2020 presidential elections. 

One of the reports, titled “1 Zongo, 1 Mortuary – Mahama Promises Zongo Communities,” reports the former president said funds for the construction will come from a “Zongo and Deprive Communities Development Fund.”

The reports referenced a video interview by John Mahama granted to Woezor TV which was streamed live on Facebook and YouTube. 

The reports, since their publication has generated public debate with Mahama being criticized by a section of the public over the matter.   

The NDC, on the other hand, has said that the reports are “false, misleading and inaccurate claims,” and “an attempt to whip up anti-Muslim sentiments against the NDC”.

Verification

To verify the claim, we accessed the video interview on YouTube and transcribed the comments by John Mahama on mortuaries and Zongo communities. 

Transcription: 00:56:33 – 1:01:25

Interviewer: The Zongo communities, this current administration talks about Zongo ministry, your manifesto makes specific reference to Zongo areas and what you intend to do. Why would people in the Zongos… Why should they trust [you]. What really do you have to share with them. Specifically with reference to where I’ve made mention of.

Mahama: We call it Zongos and deprived urban communities. That is our description. I think the NPP calls it Zongo and inner city or something. We say  Zongo and deprived urban communities because it is not only the Zongos that are deprived, there are other communities.

Interviewer: And it is in this manifesto?

Mahama: Yes it is. It is on page 82 I think. It has a lot of programmes here…. This one is interesting, it [manifesto] says ‘facilitate the establishment of morgues [or mortuaries]… You know there has been a long-standing complaint about how their [Muslim] bodies are handled and also by Islamic practice, within a certain number of hours, I think 48 hours they must bury the person but often with our traditional hospitals it takes quite some time for them to get the body ready and so on and so forth and so a lot of the Muslim communities have not been happy. So we say ‘facilitate the establishment of mortuaries in accordance with Islamic customs and practices and collaborate with the Ministry of Health to set up focal teams responsible for procedures that are compliant with Islamic Customs and practices at all public mortuaries’, so this is a very important thing that they have been talking about.” 

We did not find any mention made of the specific number of morgues to be built nor where they would be situated during the interview.

When contacted, some of the news portals that published the report were unable to point to the source of the promise that at least 300 mortuaries will be built.   

Further, desk research we conducted also did not reveal evidence of any subsequent interview by Mahama in which he explicitly stated the number of mortuaries an NDC government intends to build and where they intended to build them.

The online version of the political party’s manifesto in page 94 says on page 94: “facilitate the establishment of morgues in accordance with Islamic customs and practices and collaborate with the Ministry of Health to set up focal teams responsible for procedures that are compliant with Islamic customs and practices at all state morgues.”  

Conclusion

With the above information, we conclude that the news reports are mostly false. Although John Mahama, quoting from the NDC’s 2020 manifesto indicated that the party, if voted into office, will facilitate the establishment of mortuaries, he did not mention the number of mortuaries to be built or where they will be situated as is being widely reported. 

The reporter produced this fact-check under the auspices of the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship in partnership with Citinewsroom to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and to enhance media literacy in the country.

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