THE first-ever South African Funeral Awards were launched at Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg on Saturday.
The who's who of the funeral industry converged to witness the historical occasion at a gala dinner.
The awards are scheduled to take place in September next year to allow everyone involved in the industry to be nominated for the awards.
For now the awards will only be piloted in Gauteng before going national.
These awards have been around internationally for a decade, known as the International Funeral Awards.
The awards have been hosted in countries such as Belgium, Germany and France.
Zanele Mwale, managing director of Mwale Group, will attend the IFA in Belgium on October 24.
Proceedings at the Safa launch were opened with violin music of the popular gospel hymns sung at funerals in the background.
Guests ranged from makers of coffins, mortuary owners, limousine rentals, social societies, tombstone designers, caterers and transport providers.
Some of the guests were dressed like magicians while others looked like choir conductors in tuxedos. But all they came to do was to celebrate the multi-million rand industry, which has not been celebrated for decades.
Safa is organised by Mwale Group, a public relations company based in Johannesburg.
Judges will consider the following aspects of the business nominated for the Safa:
l Leadership and strategic vision.
l Client satisfaction - the memory the funeral parlour leaves on its clients.
l The organisation's commitment to diversity and social responsibility.
l Technical innovations - the design of tombstones, caskets and other products provided by the funeral parlour.
l Financial performance.
The awards are endorsed by among others, the South African Funeral Practitioners Association and the National Funeral Directors Association.
A total of 20 categories are to be finalised including Best Marketed Funeral Parlour, Best Newcomer and Best Female Funeral Director.
Registration for nomination has begun for all businesses involved in the funeral services' industry in Gauteng.
NFDA and Safpa, which have been rivals for years, finally agreed to work together.
Sammy Leshabane, Safpa president, said the awards were an opportunity for the two organisations to unite.