Funeral directors started their three-day national shutdown in Durban in an attempt to force the national Health Department to give in to some of their grievances. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)
Funeral directors started their three-day national shutdown in Durban in an attempt to force the national Health Department to give in to some of their grievances. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

Government mortuaries taking strain as undertakers’ strike ramps up

By Chris Ndaliso Time of article published Sep 16, 2020

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Durban - Government mortuaries were already taking strain this week as undertakers commenced with their promised strike - and the problem was expected to intensify.

The nationwide strike was organised by the Unification Task Team (UTT), a group of 17 funeral associations and forums. On Tuesday, scores of undertakers toyi-toyied in front of Durban’s Gale Street Mortuary in solidarity with their counterparts around the country.

Players in the industry demand to be heard by the health minister and to have their grievances resolved.

KZN Undertakers Forum vice-chairperson Ahmed Paruk said they would intensify the strike action over the next two days.

“The shutdown has gained huge momentum and government mortuaries are taking huge strain as Gale Street has closed down. Pinetown and Phoenix mortuaries are in operation and you can imagine the load with us having withdrawn our services. The government needs to listen to us as this will impact negatively on communities,” he said.

Paruk said they had decided on Gale Street as their rendezvous on Tuesday because it was central. The undertakers were later reported to have moved around Durban, ensuring that all had stuck to the shutdown directive.

Dhayalan Moodley, Isipingo Funeral Services director and a representative of the KZN Funeral Directors’ Association, said they were not operating.

“People who need our services should call the police to come and do the pick-up. This is a very sad situation, but if the government doesn’t want to play ball, we are left with no choice.”

UTT convener Thokozani Dladla said UTT had tabled its issues to Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma a while ago. These included the industry demanding the recognition and legalising of outsourcing of mortuary facilities; the amendment of by-laws to accommodate the building of bulk, cluster or complex storage; and the allocation of Covid-19 Relief Funds for the funeral industry with immediate effect.

National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union provincial secretary Ayanda Zulu said their members at the Park Rynie, Pinetown and Phoenix mortuaries had complained of the increased workload, which was expected to worsen if the strike continued. He said the facilities were already understaffed.

“We have resolved to engage the MEC (for health) to ask for her urgent intervention in this matter. What this will cause is not what we would like to see grieving families go through. The government must intervene,” he said.

National Health spokesperson Popo Maja said the strike was very concerning.

“The department arranged several meetings (two virtual ones in August and one physical one at the beginning of September). These meetings were the result of an open letter by the National Funeral Practitioners’ Association of South Africa. This is the only association that wrote to the department. We would like to emphasise that all funeral undertakers and mortuary premises used in connection with the preparation, storage and preservation of human remains must be in possession of a valid certificate of competence issued by the relevant local authority. Environmental Health Practitioners will continue to conduct inspections at all undertakers’ premises to check compliance with the regulations.”

Cogta national spokesperson Mlungisi Mtshali said Dlamini Zuma had met undertakers and explained the department’s position on some of the issues.

“The undertakers should be raising such issues with the national Health Department. The minister stated clearly that Cogta was in no position to dictate to the Health Department to allocate Ters funding,” he said.

Daily News

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