File picture: Thobile Mathonsi African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Thobile Mathonsi African News Agency (ANA)

Families are burying wrong bodies because of Covid-19, govt must do better

By EDITORIAL Time of article published Jun 5, 2020

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The emergence of Covid-19 has drastically changed how many households and families conduct funerals. For years, South Africans have embraced each other through the most difficult of times. 

They have gathered in numbers to show support for each other. In African communities, particularly, hundreds have made it a point to pay homage to men and women they have known for years.

Holding memorial services has been one of the accepted ways of affording friends and colleagues a chance to bid farewell to someone. But times have changed.

Moving forward, many of us will have to adapt to the new norm.

Interestingly, the coronavirus has introduced a new dimension to the funeral industry.

In black communities, there has always been a debate over the exorbitant costs associated with holding a funeral. We have heard of families spending thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, for funerals.

But lately, those who have faced the unfortunate reality of burying their loved ones have spoken of the benefits brought on by the virus, which has seen them spending far less.

A recent report stated that most of these families had “downscaled by excluding caskets, catering, tents, fancy cars and the slaughter of cows from their lists”.

One family member was quoted saying: “We had no cow, no tents, no buses, no after tears, no distant relatives over a long period. We honestly spend unnecessary money on our funerals.”

While this may be a positive aspect, some horrible experiences have left other family members gutted.

Two families from the Eastern Cape and KZN buried the wrong person because Covid-19 regulations prohibit the viewing of bodies. It was only after one family insisted on viewing the body that the gruesome discovery was made.

The Chronicle, an online news site in Zimbabwe, told a story of one family whose loved one died in South Africa and had to be repatriated.

It turned out the wrong body was sent to the family.

The bottom line is that while funerals as we know them have changed, we must still afford the deceased a dignified send-off.

We implore our governments, funeral parlours and all those involved to take care in carrying out their work.

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