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Undertakers slam rumours that they are paid a subsidy for Covid funerals

Photograph: AP

Photograph: AP

Published Jan 14, 2021


DURBAN - TOP funeral bodies have denied receiving a subsidy from the South African government and World Health Organisation (WHO) following the spread of a social media post.

When the pandemic first hit the country, funeral associations and parlours pleaded with the government for assistance.

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To express their plight, funeral associations affiliated to the Unification Task Team embarked on a three-day strike back in September 2020.

A social media post – its origin could not be established – alleged a family was required to pay R7500 for sanitising and cling wrapping for the funeral service of a family member. The post also stated the WHO gave funeral parlours R8 000 for every Covid funeral. Therefore, undertakers were declaring everyone Covid positive so they could get money.

Yesterday the National Funeral Directors’ Association (NFDA), the KZN Undertakers’ Forum and National Funeral Practitioners’ Association of SA (Nafupa SA) denied receiving any form of subsidy since the beginning of the pandemic.

Nafupa SA president Muzi Hlengwa said he did not know where the rumour came from but it was “hogwash”. Hlengwa said when it started they ignored it but noticed that it continued to circulate.

“I’ve been receiving phone calls from the public, others asking why they are charged a certain amount when the WHO was giving us R8000 for Covid bodies,” said Hlengwa.

“Just imagine, the WHO giving us money. If they had to subsidise, they would give to hospitals, not us.”

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He said they were struggling and had been repeating that they needed help from the government. Therefore, why would he say they were struggling if the government assisted them?

NFDA vice-president Dr Lawrence Konyana said as far as he knew and understood, they were not given a subsidy. Even during the first wave, there was no subsidy.

Konyana said other associations had called for a subsidy on items like personal protective equipment (PPE) but that never happened.

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“As far as I am aware, there is no such. No funeral undertakers are getting a subsidy. Most of my colleagues who have funeral services don’t know anything about a subsidy,” said Konyana.

He also said sanitisers and cling wrapping coffins was part of the service provided by a funeral parlour. Costs for PPES and sanitisers were absorbed by the funeral industry.

Konyana explained that in some areas Covid-19 test swabs were taken to hospitals for testing while the rest of the country was in limbo about testing the deceased.

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He also said in some cases, when the doctor fills in a death notification, they require the test and then the family has to pay for it.

“In some instances, the family pays for it and in some the government intervenes and the swabs are sent to government laboratories,” said Konyana.

KZN Undertakers’ Forum vice chairperson Ahmed Paruk said they had not heard of undertakers receiving a subsidy and none of his undertakers had received money from the government.

Paruk referenced the three-day national lockdown for undertakers and said the subsidy was one of their grouses, but so far, they have not received anything.

“If any of the undertakers, if maybe behind our backs, is given a subsidy, we won’t go on a three-day lockdown, we’ll go on a national lockdown for a week and bring the whole funeral industry to a standstill like we did last year,” said Paruk.

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