Protesting undertakers say they’re tired of being ignored by government
Johannesburg – “Thina si lwela amalungelo wethu, we are fighting for our rights.“
These were the lyrics to a song that people working in the funeral industry sang as they protested in front of Chris Hani -Baragwanath Academic Hospital on Monday morning.
They brought a body bag and stretcher on which one of their members lay, carried by other protesters, while many others sang around him.
The protesters were part of thousands of people in the funeral parlour industry who embarked on the protest, claiming the government had been ignoring their demands since last October.
Among their demands is that the industry be regulated and by-laws amended by municipalities to enable cluster storage.
They said that would ease their financial burden because they were now required to pay for storage at private facilities.
They also threatened to withdraw the service of removing the bodies of people who died at home if the government did not respond to their demands.
One of the protesters, who did not identify himself, said last year they marched to the Union Buildings where they also delivered a memorandum, but they were still waiting for a response
“Undertakers are dying of Covid-19. We don’t get funding but all they want to do is close small undertakers,” he said.
Another protester, who gave his name as Muzi, said they were tired of the government not listening to their plight and also stifling the growth of aspiring undertakers with red tape.
Muzi said they did a lot to help the government which, in turn, did nothing to help them.
He said when someone died at home, the forensic pathologist needed to collect that body then do a post-mortem to determine the cause of death. Only then would they collect the body from the government facility.
However, Muzi said, they were also removing bodies from people’s homes and thus easing the burden on the government, yet their efforts were not being appreciated.
“If by Wednesday our pleas have not yet been responded to, we will continue the strike.
“We are not regulated as the industry as we don’t know who to take our grievances to,” he said.
Speaking to SAFM, Nocawe Makiwane, who is also in the industry, said although she agreed with the workers’ demands, it was wrong to refuse to collect bodies at home.
Makiwne said many people died at home and withdrawing the collection service was something she could not agree with because of the health factors involved.
The department said it was aware that some undertakers were planning to shut down the collection of human remains from private and public health facilities. “This is very concerning as this action may lead to … risks to public health,” the department said.