Poor working class in Harare’s high-density suburbs and slums have resorted to forming burial societies to help them lessen the burden in times of bereavement as premiums for funeral assurances keep rising beyond the reach of many.
Burial societies in Zimbabwe have been largely associated with migrant workers from Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, who came to the country during the days of the decade long Central Africa Federation between 1953 and 1963.
Many indigenous Zimbabweans believed that their relatives would take care of their funerals or those who could afford subscribed to paying monthly instalments to funeral assurers such as Doves Morgan, Moonlight and Nyaradzo.
However, the fast deteriorating economy, high unemployment and hyperinflation has forced many to reconsider the benefits of community-based burial societies.
Residents of Hopley, a poor slum location in Harare South, formed Tochemana a ‘gure’ traditional dancers’ burial society, which every weekend holds dancing sessions in a bid to raise funds.
Denzel Dishoni, chairperson of the society said the formation of Tochemana came at a time when a number of people were failing to register themselves with established funeral service providers.
“We formed this group in August, with the aim of having our own funeral cover, since the majority of people do not have funeral policies. Since it started, we have managed to help four families with cash, food and hiring vehicles carry the deceased to mortuary,” said Dishoni, “We have also raised money by being hired to perform at funerals.”
Dishoni added that the formation of the burial society had brought relief to many families in his community in times of bereavement.
“Each time, when a person dies we had to see people walking door to door collecting mealie-meal and firewood, but we have come to change the way in which we hold our funerals. Death is unpredictable, so we have come up with this society to help the poor in Hopley.”
Sindiso Kundishora, secretary of the burial society said there were a number of events scheduled for the dancers.
“Our boys and girls are supposed to dance (zvigure) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. We are doing this regularly so that the society’s pocket will not run dry. The burial society is also helps those who failed to fully fund funerals.”
Kundishora said the situation in the country was tough and some poor people in the society cannot pay the large sums of money requested by funeral service providers.
“Looking at the state of the country, a poor person cannot afford to pay the monthly installments required by established companies who are demanding $17 bond per person in a family. The amount is way beyond the reach of many.”