Thousands of members from the undertakers industry will down tools across the country from Monday, September 14 in protest. Funeral practitioners are fighting to have outsourcing of mortuary facilities legally recognised, however, their calls have gone unanswered by government.
Practitioners argued that government depends on specific bigger players within the funeral industry, leaving little work for smaller companies. These larger companies handle majority of state funerals and the backlog brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Muzi Hlengwa, head of the National Funeral Practitioners of South Africa (Nafupa) alleges that these state funerals are sites of corruption.
“You’ll find that one company has conducted all of the state funerals we have had this year, and the amount of corruption there is something that we can no longer sit back and watch…We as the industry are unhappy that our industry is being used as a vehicle to conduct corrupt activities.”
They are calling for the tender system to be abolished to allow families to appoint their own service provider, and for the application of a rotation database if there are no families to select a service provider.
According to Hlengwa, President Cyril Ramaphosa has not responded to their concerns, leaving practitioners with no other choice but to strike.
“We haven’t heard from government, we are still waiting. Actually, as an organisation and industry, we are not happy that the situation has to come to a point like this. Nobody wants to have a strike,” he said speaking to eNCA on Sunday, September 13.
They are calling for a total shutdown, lead by the Unification Task Team (UTT), which will run from Monday to Wednesday, September 16 – during which time over 3000 industry members will strike and none of their services will be delivered.
“As from Monday we will down tools, there will be no removal of anybody who dies, whether they die at home or at a hospital, there will be no funerals conducted and all our offices and mortuaries will be closed.”
Not all members are in support of the strike, however. The SA Funeral Practitioners Association (Safpa) will not form part of the protests, explaining: “We are an organisation that promotes adherence to regulation compliance and we believe there are other avenues that can be explored to address the challenges we face as undertakers in SA.”