South Africa’s funeral industry has chosen to flex its muscles at the worst possible time

The funeral industry is the latest to flex its muscle in order to extort Covid compensation out of the depleted fiscus, and to try and force an easing of industry regulations and tendering processes.
The funeral industry is the latest to flex its muscle in order to extort Covid compensation out of the depleted fiscus, and to try and force an easing of industry regulations and tendering processes.
Image: WERNER HILLS

The funeral industry is the latest to flex its muscle in order to extort Covid compensation out of the depleted fiscus, and to try and force an easing of industry regulations and tendering processes.

The industry is regulated for a reason. This newspaper often highlights terrible abuses in the sector, including corpses being held to ransom,  policies not being honoured, bodies ending up at the wrong funerals and fly-by-nights who rip off clients at great reputational cost to those in the industry who work according to the rules.

The industry’s demands come at a time when our already fragile economy has been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the accompanying lockdown.

If anyone doubts the distressing state of our economy they have only to look at finance minister Tito Mboweni’s supplementary budget showing that our gross national debt will climb to almost R4 trillion,  81.8% of the GDP, by the end of this fiscal year.

Mboweni predicted that our economy would contract by 7.2%, the biggest contraction in almost a century. With that comes devastating job losses in a country that was already battling high unemployment.

It will take unprecedented action, effort and sacrifice by both the public and private sectors to get us through these tough times and back on track.

But, judging by the actions of both sectors, this isn’t going to happen. Instead, there has been gross misspending and looting of scarce public resources by government and its agents during the pandemic. Public sector unions are persisting with their absurd demands for inflation-beating salaries in the face of a broke government and a collapsed economy.

There is an extortionate underpinning which shows little sympathy for the most vulnerable in our society

And, in the private sector, the likes of the funeral and taxi industries see nothing wrong with trying to squeeze the government for more compensation for losses they say their industries suffered during lockdown.

In all of this there is an extortionate underpinning which shows little sympathy for the most vulnerable in our society.

The taxi industry threatened to stop all forms of transport. It cared little for those who were required to get to work, to the doctor or to other destinations.

In a similar modus operandi, undertakers now say they will leave the bodies of deceased at hospitals and homes and there will be no burials. This will pose a serious health risk to many, while adding immensely to the anguish of those mourning the passing of their loved ones.

It makes no sense that the government should give extra support to some industries while others are left with little or no support.

This country is already buried in debt. If we do not curb public spending we will soon be attending the funeral of our economy and, ultimately, of our democracy.


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