Following threats by aggrieved funeral parlours on Tuesday to shut down the offices of the Department of Home Affairs nationwide, the department says it has obtained a court interdict prohibiting members of the Unification Task Team (UTT) from intimidating home affairs staff or visitors.
This was after a protest outside the department’s head office in Pretoria on Tuesday by members of the UTT.
The organisation, which represents several undertakers, is demanding that home affairs amend its regulations so that undertakers can remove bodies from mortuaries, hospitals and forensic laboratories for burial.
The UTT argues that without a certificate of competence (COC) issued by the Department of Health to undertakers with cold storage facilities, small undertakers are unable to register any death at home affairs, book burial sites or cremate remains.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Home Affairs said the interdict was served on the UTT on Tuesday and also prohibits the organisation from damaging any home affairs property.
“The interdict forms part of the contingency plan of the department to ensure that people who need home affairs services are not inconvenienced,” department spokesperson Siya Qoza said.
Despite the court interdict, Qoza said the regular lines of communications between the department and UTT remained open.
“In regular engagements with the UTT, the department has indicated the need to consult the Department of Health and local municipalities through the South African Local Government Association (Salga).
“The consultations between the departments of Home Affairs, Health and Salga on the issues raised by UTT are taking place.”
Qoza said some of the issues the organisation raised with home affairs fall under the mandate of the Department of Health and local municipalities.
He added that an agreement was reached with the UTT to grant provisional designation for funeral parlours or undertakers to temporarily conduct business relating to the registration of deaths.
“The second decision was to grant this permission to those not yet designated to apply and register deaths for a period of 12 months while the three state entities find a lasting solution to the issues raised by the UTT, especially those relating to regulations.”