Siyanda Ndlovu
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
11 May 2021
12:28 pm

WATCH: Undertaker protest takes violent turn 

Siyanda Ndlovu

Disgruntled funeral industry participants handed over their list of demands to the department's head office on Tuesday.

A protester pretending to be a body on a stretcher during the funeral undertakers protest at the Department of Home Affairs Head Offices on May 11, 2021 in Pretoria, South Africa. The group is demanding that the department allows them to issue death certificates on behalf of bereaved families. (Photo by Gallo Images/Alet Pretorius)

Stun grenades and rubber bullets were fired on Tuesday in a standoff between funeral parlours and police during a protest at the Home Affairs department in Pretoria.

Funeral parlours vowed to shut down all home affairs offices countrywide, after failed negotiations with the department.

The Department says it has “fulfilled its promise” to the Unification Task Team (UTT),  and the grouping of funeral associations and forums.

Funeral parlours said they wanted to engage with the department to sort out some of the challenges faced by the industry.

The sector wants the department to speed up the issuing of death certificates and to allow recognised funeral associations to register certificates, and also want to be granted Certificate of Competency (CoC).

Disgruntled funeral industry participants handed over their list of demands to the department’s head office on Tuesday and the department promised to respond in seven days.

This is when the participants started demonstrating and vowed to shut down all the home affairs offices until they received the response.

Government ‘lying about truce’

UTT has continued to lobby the government over the requirement of  a COC for the release of a body from state mortuaries, hospitals and forensic laboratories for burial.

Their grievance is that without a COC issued by the Department of Health to undertakers with cold storage facilities, small undertakers were unable to register any death at Home Affairs, book burial sites or cremate remains.

This week the department announced an engagement with UTT leaders. Director-general Tommy Makhode committed to consult his department and the SA Local Government Association for input into revising the regulations and implementation of issues related to the management of human remains.

The department said in a statement it had agreed with UTT that undertakers can be issued with a provisional registration, which would allow them to operate for a year while the parties find a lasting solution.

Disgruntled funeral industry participants handed over their list of demands to the department’s head office on Tuesday and the department promised to respond in seven days.

As part of this agreement, applications must provide proof of a cold storage facility lease agreement with a COC and the COC of the person (lessor) leasing the premises.

But the UTT has rubbished the contents of the statement, saying it was not what was agreed upon.

“We are being undermined. We were clear in that meeting but nothing in that statement reflects what we thought we agreed upon. Then what happens after 12 months? What will the process be from there?” spokesperson Muzi Hlengwa said.