Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Zimbabweans dying in South Africa have been caught up in an industrial dispute that has already stopped the repatriation of Zimbabwean bodies.
An average of 70 bodies are sent home by road each week via Beitbridge Border Post. But the last bodies through the border arrived on Sunday midnight.
South Africa is home to many Zimbabweans who are in that country both formally and informally.
The chairman of the Inner-City Funeral Directors Association-South Africa (IFDA-SA), Mr Nkosi Kwanike Nare, confirmed the strike by funeral directors but could not give further details.
However, the Unification Task Team (UTT), a grouping of 17 funeral associations and forums, called for those in the funeral industry to take part in a national shutdown of hospitals and mortuaries from Monday to force the Government to attend to their grievances.
The UTT said the current set up in the funeral industry was benefitting big corporates at the expense of the majority indigenous-owned parlours.
In a statement, the organisation demanded that their Government should recognise and legalise the principle of outsourcing to small businesses in the industry.
“All funeral directors sharing storage facility on a lease agreement or ownership (including communal ownership) must each qualify for ownership of the certificate of competence for that particular facility.
“Additionally, the certificate of competence should only be a requirement for a building of storage and management of human remains,” said the statement.
The UTT also called on the Department of Home Affairs to allow funeral undertakers who don’t own a certificate of competence to write the necessary examinations.
They are also demanding that the Department of Home Affairs delink the certificate of competence from the designation number examination requirements.
In addition, the UTT wants a set up where funeral directors are allowed to appoint a proxy to conduct some of the duties on their behalf.
“We want municipality by-laws to be amended to accommodate the building of bulk storage or a cluster or complex of storages and the Government must allocate a Covid-19 Relief Fund for the funeral Industry with immediate effect.
“We have initially raised this matter to the Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, National Health Director Mr Ramathuba and Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku, in 3 different meetings, but our plea fell on deaf ears,” said the parlours.
Among other issues the organisation seeking to do away with the tender system in the funeral industry, to allow families their constitutional right to appoint their preferred service provider.
According to the statement, where there are no families to choose a service provider, a rotation database should be applied.
The parlours said they also want to be consulted by their Government where the review of laws that directly or indirectly affect them is concerned.
“Should the Government ignore our plight, we will not hesitate to intensify and introduce Level 2 with immediate effect, to lock up the funeral industry even more.
“The UTT is committed to this approach and its necessity to remind the Government of the magnitude and importance of the funeral industry in the Republic of South Africa.”