The hardships they went through, having to mourn, plan, beg and borrow, all in the same breath, remains to the two brothers, Jonas (41) and Chalota (38) Bedza, the worst lifetime experience so far.
However, after their relative’s body had been repatriated and the tears had finally dried, the two brothers sat down to reflect on what they had just gone through and how it could be avoided from recurring.
The result was an organization that has grown in leaps and bounds since it was formed at an open space inside Johannesburg’s Vodacom Park in Berea.
From its name, Moonlight is a burial society, but in its activities, it is more than a life assurance scheme.
Professionally run by its board of directors, with a strictly followed constitution, dedicated members, and benefits of up to R9 000 per death – contracted to professional undertakers – Moonlight is set apart from just a group of people who meet at the nearest beer hall for three hours every week discussing everything but death.
When they launched it on November 8 2009, the Bedza brothers only had four other members – their relatives and friends. Today, its membership spreads through every part of Matabeleland South and Bulawayo provinces as well as parts of Midlands and Matabeleland North.
“The struggle we went through trying to finance the repatriation of our cousin’s body taught us that the suffering that drove us away from Zimbabwe would keep following us here if we did not plan, hence our decision to come up with this initiative,” said Jonas, who is the organisation’s president.
“We sat down as brothers and toyed around with the idea of what we could do to ensure that instead of going through the same experience, we leant from it. The result was the idea of a burial society that goes beyond the contribution of just R200 a month. That cannot sustain three deaths, which might come at one go.”
In their early membership drive, the two brothers sent mobile phone messages to the people they had in their phone contact lists selling the idea. The results were amazing.
“When other people outside our family tree began to show interest in the society, we decided to open the space and embrace all Zimbabweans. We realized that we all came here as a result of the same problems,” said Chalota, the Moonlight chairman.
“Our membership has continued to grow, but there are times when members can be involved in a car accident and we might lose more than 10 people at once and this was the reason why we decided to enlist the services of an undertaker, so that work does not stop in the event of such unfortunate incidents.”
With a joining fee of R600, payable over a three month probation period, and a monthly subscription of R100, Moonlight covers the African family tree to its fullest extent – including children born out of wedlock and a member’s parents and their in-laws.
Due to the urgency of some situations, the organisation’s probation is half of the six months that normal insurance covers.
“Our aim is not to make money out of people, but to assist ourselves in the event of death. That is why we decided to shorten the probation period and spread the joining fee over three months. We know that some people, even those who do have work, sometimes have problems raising money,” said Jonas, whose organisation’s members meet once every month in Johannesburg.
“Our main aim is to cover the whole of Zimbabwe and plans are underway to raise the benefit fee to R12 000 so that even people from other parts of the country can benefit. We operate transparently and prospective members are allowed to sit in our meetings, read our constitution and judge for themselves if we are worth their time and money. “Our motto is ‘Join up, die with the rest, do not die alone’ because we want to encourage Zimbabweans to unite in such eventualities. We are tired of seeing our countrymen having to be subjected to pauper’s burials here in South Africa as if they do not have homes in their homeland.”
Zimbabweans have mostly been blamed for living carefree lives when they get to South Africa and failing to plan for the event of a relative dying, but Bedza says some of the blame is unwarranted.
“From experience I can tell you that the main reason why most people are exposed to such difficult situations is that they do not know who to join their hands with. You cannot go about trusting just anybody, while others do not even know that there are such initiatives as ours, that is why education is needed for members of the public to participate.”
With enough money to spread its wings, Moonlight is venturing into other businesses, but it is still under discussion by the members on what specific business that should be.
“We might venture into transport business and buy vehicles that will be used by our members in their various activities, while also hiring out to other people so that we continue to grow this business, or open shops around Johannesburg,” said the younger Bedza.
“We are also in the process of opening branches in others areas outside the city, with the ultimate aim being that of making a huge presence in Zimbabwe as well, so that we cater for our members who might decide to return home.”
In Moonlight, the Bedza brothers, who come from Mafubo village in Gwanda, Matabeleland South, have come up with an initiative that has not stopped growing since it was started two years ago.
With the constitution and a vibrant board, this will soon become the biggest name in Zimbabwean Life Assurance.
Their advice to fellow Zimbabweans seeking growth?
“Whenever you do something good, do not confine it to yourself because if you do that, you risk closing out vibrant minds that can make you grow.”
Zimbabweans have proven that they can compete with locals and other nationals when it comes to “living life” in South Africa, but as we have previously reported, most have come short when death knocked on their doors. Hence initiatives like Moonlight are the way to go. And born out of personal experiences of hardships, the directors are doing it with passion and empathy. – The Moonlight directors can be contacted on 073 384 5185/074 525 9272.Post published in: Opinions & Analysis