The funeral and burial industry says it is experiencing problems in acquiring the raw material used to make the coffins from KwaZulu-Natal after the recent violence and looting in the province disrupted the supply chain.

The industry says it is struggling to secure coffins for burial and space to keep bodies at mortuaries. It has also raised concerns about the high number of people that are gathering at funerals saying there should be greater regulation.

Deputy President of the National Funeral Directors’ Association, Doctor Lawrence Konyana says the recent unrest has added to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Unfortunately the events of the past weeks of the looting and vandalism created a big problem where we are not able to get stock of coffins, most of the funeral parlours ran out of coffins during that time. Some had their businesses vandalised and looted which worsened the crisis. And for the past 2 to 3 weeks we’ve seen an increase in the number of deaths, and most of us are operating at capacity and with the shortage of coffins. It creates a real problem.”

Appeal for government help

The country’s burial industry has pleaded with government to expedite relief for funeral parlours that were looted and vandalised during the recent violent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The unrest has put additional pressure on an industry that is already battling to cope amid an escalation in deaths in the country due to COVID-19. One of the hardest hit is the Icebolethu Funeral group in KwaZulu-Natal which lost millions of rand after 22 of its branches were torched.

Funeral parlours massively affected by recent looting:

The group’s CEO, Nomfundo Mcoyi, “We would like to see the Department of Labour assisting us to be able to pay full salaries to our staff as the funds that we have are not enough. And also assist where other families cannot afford to do a funeral, we’ve seen in Phoenix more than 300 people are sitting at mortuaries, those families they don’t have money or insurance. They need to be assisted.”

The Funeral Federation of South African says many of these businesses may be forced to close down.

Chairperson of the Federation John Storom, “And for somebody like that could essentially mean the end of a business, the end of a livelihood and there is a number of things that could be required. Government needs to look at how they can step in and assist small funeral undertakers.”