Funeral societies still relevant in Zim
Senior Lifestyle Editor
They say that the culture is dynamic, but there are some aspects that simply refuse to go because they would have become more than a way of life.
One such practice, which has stood the test of time, especially in the densely populated suburbs of Harare, is funeral societies.
Despite the advent of modern funeral services, some people in the suburbs like Mbare, Mufakose, Dzivarasekwa, Mabvuku, Kambuzuma, Highfield and Epworth, are still linked to funeral societies.
Well, there could be many other reasons for their decisions, including the fact that modern funeral services offer fees far beyond the reach of many, but culture also plays an important role in the survival of funeral societies. .
Funeral societies began to take root in Zimbabwe with the arrival of immigrants, mainly from Malawi and Mozambique, who sought employment, while others simply fled their families. Some ended up marrying locals, which strengthened and appreciated the practice of funeral societies. Funeral societies are basically a group of people in the community who form a “society” to cover funeral costs when their next of kin dies.
Monthly contributions are made to an elected treasurer of the funeral society, who then pays the payments in the event of the death of a member or dependent.
Gogo Abigail Musati (78), from the outskirts of Rugare, said funeral societies are always vital because they unite not only families but societies. She has been a member of the Umukulu-Nyoni Burial Society for 41 years.
“I buried my three children with the help of the funeral society here in Rugare,” said Gogo Musati.
“Sometimes when the going is tough, society doesn’t just help with funeral processions, members are always by your side during tough times.
“It’s not just about burying anymore, society can help buy fruit and food for those who are sick. Members visit and even console the bereaved, which is why I stick with the funeral society.
“In your questions you seem to be comparing funeral companies with funeral service providers, tell me a funeral service provider who sends workers to visit sick people who pay them thousands of dollars every month?”
Gogo Musati said her son opened a funeral insurance policy for her, which is paid monthly, but she continues her $ 6 membership to Umukulu-Nyoni Burial Society, which has 70 members.
“When we started, we were 13 families from our street,” she said.
“Most of our members are seniors enjoying their retirement and we interact so well. We keep our books well and I am up to date with my subscriptions. I hope to get a beautiful casket from the funeral society when I die.
In some cases, funeral societies, a tradition passed down from generation to generation, are popular among Nyau dancers, especially in the suburbs of Mbare and Rugare.
“My friend, the Nyau dancers love and support each other in all things, including death,” said a 36-year-old woman who only identified herself as Chaitezvi from Tichagarika Flats in Mbare.
She declined to say her real name, fearing reprisals from the Nyau dancers in the area.
“But I’m not from the Nyau practice,” Chaitezvi said.
“I only commented because you asked me, please don’t put my picture in the newspaper, the Nyau dancers will identify me and can come and sing all night in our apartment.”
Chaitezvi said there were other people still practicing funeral societies in Mbare, apart from the Nyau dancers.
“In Mbare, I know of a funeral society called Amayenge, and these people are well taken care of by the funeral society as long as they don’t need funeral policies,” she said.
“When their member dies, they even gather under a tree and start planning the funeral.
“I heard they pay US $ 10 a month and thanks to the banking facilities they now have a bank account.
“Gone are the days when they used to keep money in a box. For some, their children abroad would get them to get funeral policies, but they still cling to funeral societies, while the funeral policy is paid.
“If you are attending a funeral for a member of the funeral society, there is no problem with the food as they help each other.”
But advocates of modern funeral service providers tend to discredit funeral companies.
“The reason these areas you noted have people still practicing the culture of the funeral society is that most of the house owners are of Malawian descent and they have passed this culture on to their children who are struggling to understand. adapt to change and join funeral policies, ”said Takuranei Badza, insurance and risk management consultant for a local company.
“There is a need to launch an awareness campaign on the benefits of funeral policies rather than the practice of the elderly funeral society which is susceptible to corruption and loss of money.
Well, Badza’s argument, being in the insurance business, could be interpreted by some as trying to get more clients out of the competition posed by funeral companies.
Another local insurance expert, Jeff Jongwe, said there was a general lack of trust among funeral companies.
“Look here, these people live in the same society and observe the evolution of their social life,” he said.
“Let’s say that the treasurer improves his television set, that other members develop a feeling of mistrust. It is a natural phenomenon in human beings, especially the less educated. I’m not stereotyping, but the creators of the funeral societies went to Salisbury for menial work.
“Funeral policies are stronger and more trustworthy institutions. They have options such as adding monthly providers to your funeral insurance policy, and the family will receive a monthly amount that can be used to pay for groceries or education without necessarily having someone die.
Unlike advocates of modern funeral policies who reject funeral societies, two South Africa-based sociologists Lindiwe Ngcobo and Joseph Chisasa wrote an article citing that funeral societies pose a low risk of money loss and are effective.
“Funeral societies have been proven to be successful due to their informal nature, which is characterized by a lack of long and stringent formalities and low transaction costs compared to formal financial institutions,” part of their report reads. article titled “The Nature and Benefits of Attending Burial Society Stokvels in South Africa”.
“The results also show that the funeral society’s stokvels empower women by offering them savings opportunities.
The lifespan of funeral companies remains a matter of debate, but the point is that they compliment modern funeral service providers, while providing some form of competition for clients.
Some join funeral societies because they cannot afford modern funeral services, while others do because of the culture passed down from their fathers, but for others it is just a matter of choice. But the fact remains that for now, funeral companies still hold their ground in many societies, because they just provide more than funeral assistance.
Some have branched out to offer small loans to members, while other members of these funeral societies are pooling their resources to start businesses.
With such innovation, it looks like funeral companies will stay with us for a lot longer.