By Simtembile Mgidi
Families have a right to give their loved ones a dignified send-off — with an abundance of relatives in attendance — along with any rituals required to be performed.
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This is the view of Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders chair Mwelo Nonkonyana after an announcement by health MEC Sindiswa Gomba at the weekend that further restrictions on funerals were needed to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Gomba hopes to get Premier Oscar Mabuyane to approve her proposal to further limit the number of people attending funerals.
This included only family members and funeral parlour workers being allowed to attend, along with the banning of tents and catering.
The size of a funeral is limited to 50 people.
DispatchLIVE reported on Saturday that 28 people who had attended a March 21 funeral in KwaDwesi had tested positive for the infection caused by the coronavirus.
How Eastern Cape funeral drove infection spike
One later died.
“People have a right to a dignified funeral,” Nonkonyana said.
“It is imperative that family members including close relatives provide a dignified farewell in the form of a funeral and family rituals.”
Nonkonyana said he would wait to see if the proposal gained traction with Mabuyane and they would then respond formally.
“Already, many families struggle with only 50 people allowed to attend.”
Gomba said many people failed to adhere to the funeral lockdown regulations.
She hoped the proposal would “flatten the curve” of the pandemic as the Eastern Cape had 270 confirmed cases of the killer virus.
“There has been a worrying trend of people breaking the lockdown regulations by more than 50 allowed to attend funerals.”
This comes as Nelson Mandela Bay recorded its third death and the total number of Covid-19 cases in the Bay stood at 108 on Sunday morning.
Five people have died in the province while nine have recovered from the virus.
Gomba said she hoped Mabuyane would escalate the proposal to put a further restriction on funerals.
“There should be no tents or catering at funerals until the victory against the virus.
“We believe this is a necessary step to stop the further spread of Covid-19 and prevent more deaths.
“One death is one too many; what we are experiencing now is the new normal, and so we have to adapt and change how we do things,” Gomba said.
“The department is specifically concerned with funerals in rural areas and townships, as scores of people visit the bereaved families for prayer services and to offer condolences on a daily basis.
“This continues until the day of the funeral.
“It exposes more people to the coronavirus; graves are dug by village men and they are in danger of being infected by the virus,” Gomba said.
She said the diggers used the same tools and often drank from the same water jug.
“We value human life and we will always place life ahead of everything else,” Gomba said.
SA Funeral Practitioners Association president Libo Mnisi said he fully supported Gomba’s call for further restrictions.
“I don’t think as funeral parlours we would be affected by not providing catering.
“All the funeral undertakers understand the situation,” he said.
“I really don’t think there would be a funeral parlour that felt it was losing business because of this.”
Mnisi said the association wanted to work with the government to save lives.
The news of possible further restrictions left Port Elizabeth residents divided.
Simnikiwe Mginywa, of Zwide, said since the country was facing a pandemic it was a necessary measure.
“This means it will be easier to trace people if there are fewer at a funeral.”
However, Lindiwe Sithole, of Motherwell, said it would be difficult for the families to choose who would attend.
“How are we supposed to choose who is to come and who is not?
“This is not right.”