Locals in Thohoyandou and surrounding villages in Limpopo say they are feeling the impact of the large number of people dying from coronavirus in their communities.
They say the number of COVID-19 related deaths is increasing. Polokwane, Lephalale, Thohoyandou, Tzaneen and Giyani are hotspots in the province. Some families have been left without breadwinners.
Funeral parlours indicate that they might soon run out of coffins due to the high number of deaths.
Residents say they find it more difficult because they cannot perform rituals. These include the viewing of the body, the coffin being taken to the family house before burial, attending the send-offs as well as physically visiting the bereaved to pay condolences.
“We hear that loved ones have passed away, like during this week we are going to bury more than eleven people. [We can’t] view the loved one that passed away, just allow the undertaker to take your loved one to the graveyard to avoid spreading the disease. Some of us are not believing in that virus called COVID- 19 but some of us know the dangers of COVID-19.”
SANCO spokesperson in the Thulamela sub-region, Meshack Muvhango, says families are losing their loved ones, including breadwinners. Muvhango is urging residents not to hold community meetings and not to serve food at funerals.
“We are losing many community members, some are being infected. We are always burying our loved ones at an alarming rate. We have asked the communities not to follow some rituals during bereavement as we are losing many lives.”
The Vhembe Funeral Practitioners Association spokesperson Robert Mangege says they no longer have enough coffins as the demand is too high.
“We do have problems, we are not coping at all. Our suppliers have got shortages of stock, we’re talking about coffins. We don’t have coffins and we still have problems because every day we are going to the graveyard to bury people so we’re short of coffins.”
Mangenge also says that the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) is a major concern. He says suppliers have doubled the prices.
“We do have problems for the PPE, first we were buying at R64 but now they doubled the price. We get it at R150 and those things we use only ones and throw away even we go to look for those things we can’t get it is almost out of stock all over and we supposed to have those things by force because we can’t enter the mortuary without wearing those things.”
In the Vhembe district, the Thulamela municipality is the most affected. Thulamela spokesperson Ndwaamato Tshiila urges people to follow COVID-19 regulations.
“Thulamela right now is regarded as the epicenter of the Coronavirus in the Vhembe district so we are requesting the communities around Thulamela to follow all COVID-19 protocols. We are urging them not to attend funeral gatherings if there is no dire need. Communities under the Thulamela municipality are still under the leadership of traditional leaders so we are urging communities to use WhatsApp and other methods in order to communicate messages to the communities because that virus is killing more people around our area.”
The situation is also dire in Polokwane, Lephalale, Giyani and Tzaneen.
Some people are however still hold parties, football tournaments and also exceed the required number of mourners at funerals.