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Church council asks Ramaphosa to suspend funerals

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: GCIS

A proposal has been made to President Cyril Ramaphosa to suspend all funerals in the country as a means to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement addressed to Ramaphosa on Sunday, the  SA Pentecostal Bishops Council, in partnership with the Church Leaders Council of SA, SANERELA and Christian scholars, recommended that funerals be suspended “in the interim or until further notice”.

DispatchLIVE reported that the religious bodies also provided an alternative proposal,  that the number of mourners per funeral be limited to 15 people.

However, they said this could be risky, as the “chances of contracting the virus would still exist”. Those attending would need to wear personal protection equipment.

“Mr President, there are reports and overwhelming evidence that our people are not well informed about Covid-19, especially in rural communities. This is evident from the numbers of funerals and/or traditional ceremonies continuing to take place, where attendees do not practise social distancing and/or adhere to the health standards as set out in the Covid-19 lockdown regulations,” the organisations said in the statement.

“Faith Leaders, especially, are well aware of the unique demographics and cultural practices of our people. That having been said, the continuation of funerals, without involvement of local municipalities and people continuing to cross provinces, should be closely regulated.

“In the event that this is not done and attended to as a matter of extreme urgency, sadly innocent people will be caught in the crossfire between the transmission with the coronavirus and the fight to prevent it from spreading.”

Were Ramaphosa to accept their proposal to suspend funerals, the “current worldwide model” whereby those who have died are laid to rest by the military or a funeral home or morgue should be adopted, they said.

“It is our view that although these suggestions, if agreed upon and implemented by government, would be considered  drastic measures, one should visualise the future consequences to the citizens of our country if measures are not implemented.”

The groups said they were also concerned about people becoming victims of police brutality during the lockdown.

“It is of importance that the SAPS, military and essential workers be informed of the necessity to adhere to the proposed amended regulations with regard to funerals and, further, that our communities be made aware of the severity and overall effect of this virus.

“We might experience that  due to the implementation of amended regulations in these extreme circumstances, police brutality might escalate due to non-compliance of our citizens.”

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