Burial societies moving with the times

Community funeral groups, popularly known as burial societies, have for a long time been perceived as backward initiatives by poor grassroots people planning for the modest interment of departed friends, relatives and colleagues.

James Rukozho - One of the founders of Rubastiro Gutu Burial Society.
James Rukozho – One of the founders of Rubastiro Gutu Burial Society.

But some burial societies are trying to move with the times. Today, critics would be alarmed to learn that in Bulawayo, some burial societies are not only being run professionally but have acquired buildings and mini buses.

The chairperson of Drumhead Burial Society, Timothy Mupindu, said most professionals used to shun burial societies, regarding them as primitive organisations for poor people.

“Our society is now dominated by professionals. Our Treasurer is a qualified Chartered Accountant. Since the introduction of the multi-currency system, we have managed to buy two kombis through monthly membership subscriptions. We have also managed to open an office in town,” said Mupindu.

With over 500 members from all walks of life, including three white families, the operations of the society are governed by a constitution. For a monthly subscription of $15 children, spouses and father and mother in-law are covered.

“Our society was seriously affected by hyperinflation during the Zimbabwe dollar era. We were only rescued by the introduction of the multi-currency regime. Recently, we bought two 26-seater mini buses from Japan to transport members during funerals. We hire out the buses to raise money to run our offices,” said Mupindu.

They plan to transform the society into a funeral parlour to cater for its members and possibly extend the service to non-members in future. “ We also want to have our own mortuary,” added Mpindu.

Hair salon owner, Youngson Rwodzi, 26, said he joined Nyazura Burial Society following the death of his father one of the founder members.

“Like my father, most of the founder members have died and their children have taken over. We are trying to bring in a culture of good leadership and professionalism in the running of the society,” said Rwodzi.

Shebba Moyo said a lot of people now prefer to join burial societies because of the high costs of funeral parlours. “I pay a monthly subscription of $10 while most parlours charge between $20 and $ 100,” he said.

“Burial societies are also a platform where members meet every month just to socialise. Burial societies are doing a great service to the city council as most of the families in the high density suburbs are members of these societies. They promote decent burials for residents and the council should support them,” Moyo.

Rubatsiro Gutu Burial Society was founded in 1980 by 10 local families. Today it has 700 members.

Members are paid an instant $1000 to cover burial expenses. The society also has provisions to cushion its members against financial shocks. When a member loses his or her job, the society helps with accommodation rent for three months and members are free to ask to be reimbursed their contributions in the event that they can longer afford the subscriptions.

A veteran burial society administrator and one of the founder members of the society, James Rukozho, called for the formation of a national body to preside over the affairs of burial societies.

He suggested that the national body should look into the functions of burial societies and ensure that there was no misappropriation of funds. Most burial societies have been rocked by allegations of misappropriation of funds.

Post published in: News

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