National strike: you may not be able to bury your loved ones any time soon

Funeral directors are concerned that Home Affairs will not issue death certificates, which will cause a backlog in burials. Picture: Pexels

Funeral directors are concerned that Home Affairs will not issue death certificates, which will cause a backlog in burials. Picture: Pexels

Published Nov 10, 2022


Johannesburg – As strike action rolls out nationally today, November 10, funeral undertakers warn that it could have a dire and direct impact on you burying your deceased loved ones.

Undertakers, who work closely with Home Affairs, one of the departments likely to be affected by the national strike action, are in a quandary, unsure if they will get the relevant paperwork to book graves for burial.

They have urged: “If there are any plans or any hopes of burying this weekend, consider postponing them.”

The Public Servants Association (PSA) - which represents about 250 000 government workers - resolved to embark on strike action after Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi last week announced he would unilaterally be implementing a 3% wage increase for all civil servants.

Most unions are rejecting this latest wage offer by government, saying it is a “slap in the face”. This will be the first major public service strike since 2010.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana confirmed that they would impose the below-inflation wage increase on its 1.3 million state employees.

According to Bloomberg, Godongwana said: “We have got no room to move at the moment, even in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement the carry-through costs we have are only for the 3% increase.”

Unions had demanded a pay raise of as much as 10%. Inflation in South Africa is currently 7.5%.

The strike by members of the PSA is set to take place from November 10 and is expected to affect all government departments.

A statement issued by the PSA read in part: “The strike will have a serious impact on the activities of departments, especially Home Affairs, Transport, and Border Control. This will be the first major public service strike since 2010.” It also warned that the strike would affect matric exams and disrupt airports.

Managing director of Maziya Funerals, Taru Sibeko, described just how dire the situation could potentially become.

Maziya Funerals managing director, Taru Sibeko. Picture: Supplied

“It’s a huge setback because Home Affairs is the key role-player in what we do.

“As soon as someone passes on and we fetch the body, the first thing we need to take care of is documentation and that includes getting the death certificate and getting the death registered,” he said.

“Without a death certificate, we can’t book a grave. Without a death certificate, it means families can’t claim from their respective policies and insurance providers to get money.

“Basically, it means it’s deadlocked… We can’t do anything, funerals do not carry on, and nothing happens if Home Affairs is not working,” said Sibeko.

Sibeko lamented the negative impact the situation could have on his relationships with clients.

“Some people do not understand, and it makes us look incompetent.

“Yes, people hear it on the news that certain state departments are striking, but sometimes people expect heaven and earth from us.

“They feel they have been paying their premiums and expect that we must make a plan, because it is not their problem and it’s impossible,” he said.

Sibeko intends to manage the expectations of any bereaved members that may look to make use of his funeral services, while the strike action persists.

“If there are any plans or any hopes of them maybe burying this weekend, they’ll just have to maybe try to postpone it till next week because tomorrow is Thursday… If Home Affairs is open, we could still fit them in but nothing can be done without a death certificate,” said Sibeko.

“If the strike persists for a prolonged period of time it could cause a logistical nightmare in terms of the storage of cadavers.

“Lucky for us we have multiple mortuaries so space is not a problem, but there are those undertakers who are going to have a problem.

“Not everyone has a whole lot of space, so it will definitely cause a problem,” Sibeko said.

“Let’s say this strike goes on for a week, people are going have a problem with space, that’s for sure,” he said.

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