Loved to death: the grave task of keeping mourners away from ...

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Loved to death: the grave task of keeping mourners away from funerals

As one bereaved person put it: ‘We can’t stop family from burying their loved one’

Graeme Hosken and Mpumzi Zuzile
Hundreds of thousands of South African are dying needlessly because the healthcare system is ineffective, say Medical Research Council researchers.
dead wrong Hundreds of thousands of South African are dying needlessly because the healthcare system is ineffective, say Medical Research Council researchers.
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Urban funerals are ready to start live-streaming memorials, cremations and burials, but undertakers in rural areas say the limit of 50 mourners will be impossible to enforce.

People wishing to attend a funeral must register with police, as there are curbs on body viewings and preparations.

A family that lives near the rural Eastern Cape village of Xhora is among those who will not be adhering to lockdown regulations. A representative said they were preparing for more than 100 people to attend the funeral of a relative.

“We dressed the body, and he is ready. The funeral parlour told us that they will be able to deliver the body to our church as planned at 6am on Sunday. Food is prepared, and we are slaughtering sheep and a cow today,” said Ndobo.

We can’t stop people burying their loved one.

It was the same for a Xhora family who buried their son at the weekend. The family has nearly 200 members and, as one of them said, “we can’t stop family from burying their loved one”.

Police in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga told Times Selecy the regulations would be difficult to enforce. “With limited manpower, who is going to count the number of mourners?” asked a police officer from Groblersdal.

A Durban warrant officer said he had no idea how the regulations would be enforced. “We have been speaking to funeral parlours, telling them to provide us information on dates and times of funerals, but the problem is there are so many funerals happening, especially over a weekend. Some villages have up to 10 funerals over a weekend.”

SA Funeral Practitioners’ Association president Libo Mnisi said operating under the lockdown regulations was a logistical nightmare.

“Our 800 members, on average, conduct 30 funerals each over the weekend. These regulations really need to be thought out properly.”

National Undertakers’ Association of SA secretary Thomaza Lupuzi said in African cultures many people came to pay their final respects. “How do you measure and limit the numbers who come to funerals, when entire villages go to funerals?”

Bipin Karsen, chairperson of the Committee of the Brixton Hindu Crematorium, said they were trying to abide by the regulations, but it was difficult.

“Some days we conduct up to eight cremations, which have lots of mourners. We are issuing instructions to our staff to limit the numbers, but you cannot tell people when they must or must not die.”

National Funeral Directors Association of Southern Africa president Manesha Govender said until Thursday there had been mass confusion about how funerals would be conducted.

“People were panicking, especially families of the dead. It was as though government had forgotten about the dead.”

Sonja Smith, who operates Sonja Smith Funeral Services in Gauteng, said they were looking at live-streaming funeral and memorial services to comply with the lockdown curbs.

“We are able to work within the regulations, but there are many parlours and bereaved who don’t have the means to do so.”

Doves managing director Jodene Smith said they were equipped to do embalming. “Our staff have been trained in Covid-19 safety measures and precautions, and when we go out we treat every deceased as a high risk.”