Undertakers’ strike impacts on collection of bodies

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The nationwide undertakers’ strike has negatively affected the collection of bodies from homes and hospitals in Limpopo. This is according to the Unification Task Team provincial Co-ordinator, Peter Matlatle.

He led a group of protesters to the Pietersburg Hospital in Polokwane where they prevented undertakers from entering the hospital to collect bodies. They are calling on government to allow them to out-source the storage of bodies.

Matlatle says they have deployed other undertakers to all hospitals in the province to ensure that government pathologists are the only ones that fetch bodies for the next two days.

“We are happy that at all the hospitals we have ground force people there, who are blocking the hearses to come in. We want the government to call us on board so that we sit down and talk. Mokopane Hospital doesn’t have a storage facility so they outsource, so it is good when government outsources but not when private mortuaries do it,” says Matlale.

Meanwhile, Lucky Simango, a Zebediela-based based undertaker, says clients who have lost their loved ones whose bodies are yet to be collected have been badly affected.

“Now I received four calls, we need to come and collect the body so we have a problem, there is no way we can go and collect the body just because of our government does not help us. We are there, but our government they didn’t check us with nothing. We just telling can you please call our government to come and collect the body, they say our government did not respond, the phone at the police station at the forensic, we don’t know what is gonna happen to the body,” says Simango.

Mortuaries in Durban closed

The convenor of the Unification Task Team for undertakers, Muzi Hlengwa, says most mortuaries have opted not to open at the start of the three-day nationwide strike.

They are demanding transformation in the sector and a fair process in the awarding of tenders for state funerals. A few people are protesting outside Durban’s Gale Street Mortuary.

Hlengwa says he is satisfied with the support so far.

“We started very nice, peacefully. We want to thank undertakers for obeying. They are all closed. You have seen your Doves is closed. Avbob is closed. Everyone is closed. But should there be those who think they are better than everybody else, believe you me we are going to go to them and make sure that they close. We are going to pray for they like iZioni pray for people,” says Hlengwa.

Meanwhile, the South African Funeral Practitioners’ Association (SAFPA) says they it will not participate in the nationwide undertakers’ strike.

SAFPA Secretary-General Ludwick Ramathoka says they will continue to operate while maintaining communication on the way forward.

“The only thing that we did not agree within the UTT it’s when they were discussing the shutdown the demand is to talk to the Minister so that the Minister can give them attention. The department has never refused to talk to us I don’t think it was necessary for us to start with a shutdown even before we can exhaust other avenues that are available just to engage with the Ministry of Health on the issue of COC – the Certificate of Competent. This is just a simple requirement that we need to comply with because it talks about the healthy environment especially in the mortuary,” says Ramathoka.

No strike in the Free State

The Free State Funeral Directors’ Association says it will not take part in the three-day undertakers’ nationwide strike.

The association’s spokesperson Papi Maleka says they arrived at their decision at the weekend as they did not receive a formal invitation to be part of the strike.

“A genuine protocol was not followed, we cannot as Free State Funeral Undertakers to be invited through social media. We have the platform with our Free State government, municipalities and stakeholders for addressing our demands,” says Maleka.

Intimidation of other funeral parlour associations

In the Eastern Cape, a large number of funeral parlour associations in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro say they are being intimidated for not taking part in the strike. Some undertakers say they support the reasons behind the strike but are against the negligence and violence that might result from it.

“We support principles and the idea that our colleagues are embarking on a strike for. However because of the violence and the threat to life, our organisation which I’m a part of decided not to support the strike and I’m subject to that, I must abide by that rule,” says an undertaker.

“Currently, all funeral parlours in this region except the NAFUPA SA, we are not taking part to the strike,” says another undertaker.

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