Sithembiso Nkala* died in June, at the age of 46, in a small township in the city of Bulawayo. Attached to the door of his uncle’s house, the red flag announcing his funeral fluttered in the cool wind of this early winter [dans l’hémisphère Sud] for almost fifteen days. Because her family couldn’t raise enough money to let her rest in peace. She had to enlist the help of friends and acquaintances to buy a cheap casket and pay cemetery fees.
His case is far from isolated. In April, a Bulawayo councilor went out of his way to convince residents to contribute to the funeral costs of a widow who lived with several of her grandchildren. They didn’t even go to school anymore because she couldn’t afford to pay their school fees.
Dead on credit
You should know that, in funeral homes, the smallest coffin costs about 300 US dollars [296 euros] – more than the monthly salary of a civil servant; carpenters offer it black for a hundred dollars [98 euros].
Sithembiso Nkala had not taken out any funeral insurance and did not belong to any funeral association [dont les membres s’aident mutuellement à régler les frais de funérailles]. So his family had to hastily find 200 US dollars [197 euros] to assure him a decent end. But no one in his family had a good job. “We couldn’t bury him as quickly as we would have liked,” regret a parent.
Township dwellers are accustomed to paying small sums to help with the funerals of their neighbours. But the amounts collected this time were not enough.
The tradition is that the family of the deceased offers food to all the guests. These are the meals that cost the most at funerals. Also, here, poor families ensure that they do not last more days than necessary.
Before, when a person passed the weapon on the left, his family would go door to door in the neighborhood to collect corn flour. But with the soaring price of this staple of Zimbabwean society, this tradition has been lost.
The fact is that today funerals have become real headaches. Because to all these problems is added the fact that funeral associations, once flourishing, are becoming increasingly rare. That inflation seriously erodes income. And that, in recent years, funeral insurance premiums have not escaped the daily escalation of prices.
An economy six feet under
Last month, the Zimbabwe Funeral Service Group, which