From February 1, Indian- and white-owned funeral businesses will no longer be allowed to enter black townships and villages to conduct funerals. This is according to a message, circulating via social media, allegedly posted by the National Funeral Practitioners Association of South Africa (Nafupa).The message reads: “You are therefore urged to make cash claims from these companies and hire services of black funeral service providers. Should you wish to switch your funeral cover to black businesses there will be no waiting period. Issued by NAFUPA #BlackCoalitionRevolution. #BlackPower.”
Speaking to the Daily News, Nkosentsha Shezi, Nafupa’s secretary-general, said he could not confirm whether the message came from his organisation. However, he said he stood behind the point the message was making.
“I do believe that the message is being misinterpreted. All we are saying is that we are tired of black people being consumers and not producers. We are calling for equity in this sector. You find that in other industries, only certain businesses are allowed to operate. We have taken a resolution to reserve townships for black funeral business.
“Black people should be able to conduct business in their areas,” he said.
Shezi, who has been running his own funeral company for the past five years, said he was not calling the decision radical economic transformation, a buzz phrase coined by government in recent months.
“Politicians use radical economic transformation for their own means and we are not politicians, but we understand the meaning behind the statement. We will do everything in our power to see that black business prospers,” he said.
Shezi said if Indian- or white-owned funeral parlours refused to allow black-owned business to operate in their areas, he would accept and respect their wishes.
“I would give them a thumbs up. I would say they have every right to make those demands,” he said.
Shezi said a meeting was called for Nafupa affiliates next month to further discuss the wishes of black-owned funeral parlour owners.
Commenting on condition of anonymity, a funeral parlour owner said there had never been these issues in the past.
“We were very surprised when we got the message. I think this is all because there are just too many funeral parlour businesses. So it could be a case of not everyone getting business,” he said.
He has been running a funeral for the past 35 years. He said there was no official regulatory organisation that oversaw the funeral parlour industry.
“We have to comply with the Department of Health, but I can just rent a house from someone and store bodies inside it. I can hire a car to use for the ceremony. You do not have to have your own facility,” he said.
For another funeral parlour owner, Dhayalan Moodley, it was unacceptable that Indian and white funeral parlours were being targeted.
“Many funeral parlours stood as the backbone of the current ruling party, providing a free service to impoverished families and also contributing to burials of fallen cadres. It is sad that an industry that has given so much to the community is now being threatened.”
Economic Development and Tourism MEC Sihle Zikalala said: “If we come across this message, we will sit down and speak to all the parties to resolve this matter amicably.”
Johan Rousseau, the Funeral Industry Reformed Authority chairperson, said they distanced themselves from the threats.
“This is all totally irresponsible, for people to go around making threats against others. We need to all sit-down and talk about this,” he said.
Rousseau said he believed that the threats were politically motivated.
“There is a third force at work here and we need the government to intervene. We do not believe that some of these businesses have the adequate infrastructure and they do not understand the consequences and implications of their actions,” Rousseau said.
He said funeral parlour owners needed to stand firmly together.
By: SE-ANNE RALL/Daily News