Kings and Queens in death

More than seven years ago, a group of 11 friends got together to discuss the methods used by the only funeral parlour that served Zimbabweans in neighbouring South Africa.

Reuben Naran, the Kings and Queens Manager.
Reuben Naran, the Kings and Queens Manager.

Instead of remonstrating with the service provider, a South African, or causing commotion at any of the services, the group thought that the best way to afford their countrymen dignified rest was to take the funeral provider head-on in business.

The result was the formation of Kings and Queens Real Funeral Services, which has over the years become one of the flagship funeral services providers for Zimbabweans in both South Africa and back home.

“Our aim was to afford our compatriots the dignity they deserve both after their death and while mourning of the loss of their loved ones,” said Reuben Naran, the Kings and Queens Manager during a recent interview with Scatterlings.

With offices in Doorfontein, Johannesburg, the building that houses the funeral parlour has a monolithic reputation for most Zimbabweans in the city.

“Our aim is to treat Zimbabweans as what they are to us – kings and queens, hence the name.”

Pooling resources

In getting into the business in 2004, the Zimbabweans, who worked in various fields in Johannesburg, contributed R10 000 each to establish the business.

“The money helped us get the things we needed- starting capital, a car and mortuary services, which we got by signing a contract with a Soweto-based South African to provide for us in our formative days,” added Naran.

“The South African provided us with the mortuary facilities while we ran around trying to convince people to put their funeral load on us.”

That is how the first real challenge came about for the just-formed company.

“Convincing people to leave an experienced provider to come and join us became a problem, as most did not trust that we would give them what we promised at that time – a decent burial for their loved ones.

“Our first office was in Yeoville (a residential area dominated by Zimbabweans near central Johannesburg) and one day we attended a funeral there and provided the best service ever seen by Zimbabweans.

As time went on, one of the partners pulled out because he could not continue with the required monthly contributions for the business, leaving behind the 10 who have continued to grow the company.

Funeral cover

Besides providing funeral services to individuals and more than 100 signed-up burial societies, Kings and Queens also provides funeral cover for more than 3 000 clients.

“We realized that most Zimbabweans are finding it difficult to prepare due to the hardships they face in this country and would not be able to pay us in full should death occur, hence the funeral cover scheme, which is only for Zimbabweans and locals.

“Most of our clients are from Matabeleland, but we provide services to any part of Zimbabwe at reasonable rates. People pay us joining fees and after paying their monthly contributions for six months, they get full services for their immediate families – a man, his wife and children aged below 18 years,” explained Naran.

Most of the people who have signed up for cover have done so while attending funeral services at the funeral parlour, but Naran urged more Zimbabwean to prepare for such eventualities.

On what has been the key to their success, he said trust among the members has pulled Kings and Queens through all its challenges and seen it expand to provide services to other foreign nationals living in South Africa – Nigerians, Congolese and Zambians.

“At times we need to admit that we cannot do things on our own and create partnerships based on trust, hard work and determination.

“We opened our Zimbabwean offices in Bulawayo’s Kelvin North in 2005, after the request of our clients who had seen our services here. We are also in the process of spreading our presence to other parts of the country and our first such targets are Plumtree and Harare, where plans are at an advanced stage.”

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis
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