Dearly departed deserve to be buried with dignity

Justice Malala

Justice Malala

It happens every Saturday morning all across the country. It strips black people of their dignity and chips away at their humanity.

Yet the following Saturday, without fail, thousands of black men and women subject themselves and their families to the same ignominy. It should stop.

A few weekends ago I went to a funeral on the East Rand. The cortege left the house at 10am and within minutes several other cars had joined the procession. The main road was clogged with even more buses and private cars going to the same cemetery.

Cars jostled with taxis to get through. Buses hooted. Cars hooted. The Ekurhuleni Metro police rushed by, sirens wailing and lights flashing.

Because most people who attend funerals do not know where the local cemetery is, cars follow each other with lights flashing and everyone speeding to stay in the procession. Traffic lights are jumped; traffic rules are ignored. Chaos ensues. But this is just the beginning.

As more cars from other funerals join the long line of vehicles, drivers start panicking that they are being left behind. Taxis and private car drivers get frustrated that they are caught in these traffic jams. People start overtaking recklessly. Tempers flare. Accidents happen.

Now, when one gets to the cemetery an incredible sight meets one. Where I went, at least 25 different people were being buried at the same time.

After the dangerous joyride, one was faced with finding one's particular burial. And so an extraordinary situation follows. People come and stand and listen, then suddenly realise that this is not "their funeral". Disturbing everyone, they noisily leave to find the "correct person" they have come to bury.

By the time one finds one's funeral, the coffin has been lowered and prayers said.

Funerals should be dignified affairs. A funeral is a loved one going to their final resting place. The deceased's family is traumatised and deep in mourning. Friends and colleagues are similarly affected.

Surely, this person's journey to the cemetery should be without the drama and trauma I saw at Vosloorus. Surely, the family and friends deserve to bury him or her in quiet, calm and dignity.

What I see at funerals today is neither dignified nor worthy of being seen as a final journey to the grave. It is full of betrayal of the many worthy lives of our friends and families.

Why is this so? It is because we black people have painted ourselves into a corner imposed by apartheid labour laws. We bury our people on weekends only. Surely we can bury on other days of the week?

We are turning our funerals into affairs which lack all meaning. One cannot hear what the priest says, what the friends and family say, because the people at the next grave are singing or crying.

Funerals are times to say goodbye, to reflect on lives lost and the preciousness we have been given. It is tragic that today, going to a funeral is a matter of being seen there rather than actually mourning the dead.

We need a culture change.

lNthabisang Moreosele is on leave. returns next week.