Dying in the Diaspora

CASKETFanuel Kangondo Deputy Lifestyle Editor
Often we hear people proclaiming that we are born to die, and it is indeed the inevitable which give us the challenge to do the utmost and enjoy the years before it happens.

Others, however, view death as the nastiest part of their existence such that they have to find a way to get over it.

There is yet another view to death as a continuation of life but so desperately sad for those left behind to mourn until the time they are re- united with their loved ones. One just needs to see the grim-faced relatives of a departed one as they say their final goodbyes to know that this is an oft-prophesied but little believed claim.

While we mostly accept death, it has always been an unwelcome guest; it hits us hardest when our close relatives are taken and we lose our nonchalant acceptance which we feel when it happens to the next person. Complications and challenges have now arisen over the years as some of our brothers and sisters have joined the trek to live and work in the Diaspora where death is also hovering above their heads.

In our African culture, there is always communal existence where people give each other moral, emotional and material support. Most bereaved families in the Diaspora are often caught in situations that they need more financial than emotional support and may find themselves without adequate life assurance cover.

Although others have grown to accept that they can be buried or cremated in foreign lands, the majority feels obliged to be “sunk” in the grounds of their homelands and are repatriated, albeit at an often high emotional and attendant financial cost.

The repatriation process has been known to have its complications with wrangles in some cases delaying burial by weeks and months.

The body of actress Pretty Xaba who died in India while seeking treatment for cancer was delayed for a few days while the family sought assistance to bring back her body.

Remember the Fortune Muparutsa saga nearly six years ago when his body could not be repatriated for nearly nine months after he died in England? The incident epitomised the sad state of affairs of dying in the Diaspora without providing for the inevitable and this drew the intervention of fellow artistes, family and other well- wishers to raise the £2 450 required for Fortune’s body to be repatriated from the London morgue where it had been holed up for nine months.

There was also the highly publicised case of another Zimbabwean, Dr Ottillia Chareka, who died in Canada in 2011 whose relatives and friends ran a campaign to raise US$20 500 needed to send her body home for burial. During the same year, the begging bowl went around in the United Kingdom to send back the body of Josaya Chipinda.

In yet another touching incident when popular Studio 263 actor Nevernay Muwengwa died in South Africa in November 2010, his family had to run to raise R20 000 to bring his body back home for burial.

In a rare case, a Chitungwiza family recently discovered that the grief that they had poured out for their son was all in vain when their “dead” son waltzed into their home months after they had mourned him after he was reportedly knocked down by a vehicle in South Africa. Jackson Chipfupa (32), a panel beater, was told of his funeral while he was still in Polokwane and had to explain his situation to the police before returning home to reassure his relatives that they had actually buried a “stranger” at Seke cemetery.

Plans are now underway to exhume the body and send it back to SA. Jackson is blaming the police for failing in their duty to verify the body’s identity and wants the funeral expenses to be reimbursed.

There is also a wrangle that is brewing regarding the death early this month of Zimbabwe businessman and promoter Prosper Mkwaiwa in South Africa at the hands of his two South African wives, Tina Dlangwana and Tina Jaxa. His family has intimated that he would be exhumed and reburied in Zimbabwe.

The main costs that those in the Diaspora face in the event of death include body repatriation, flight costs for people (family or friends) to accompany the body back to the motherland, cost of the coffin or casket, funeral costs abroad, freight costs for shipping personal effects of the deceased and in many cases some have to meet the funeral costs back home in Zimbabwe.

Funeral directors said to repatriate a body from the United Kingdom required at least £2 500 to cover all the processes while those from South Africa would require about R25 000.

There is also police involvement and a local funeral director who has to do the paper work as well as provide the proper casket/coffin for repatriation, a coroner or pathologist may be involved depending on the nature of death.

Before the body goes to the funeral director there is need for a death certificate, embalming certificate, export certificate, a coffin/casket sealing certificate and a customs declaration to be done.

There will be transport bills to the coroner/pathologist, to the funeral parlour and to the airport and also airline charges for the cargo. In some cases as that of Pretty Xaba part of the expenses are for medical services incurred before death.

Local funeral assurance companies have since jumped onto the bandwagon and are now offering funeral cash plans for those in the Diaspora to cover their funeral expenses. Moonlight Funeral Assurance managing director Dr Chomi Makina said it was critical to deal with a reputable funeral director when faced with the repatriation of a body from outside the country.

He said local companies had entered into partnerships with their counterparts regionally and abroad which made it easier and affordable to repatriate deceased bodies.

The Diaspora policies are designed to lessen the burden on the bereaved families as the companies take full responsibility of the repatriation up to the final resting place in Zimbabwe.

“Repatriation need not be a hassle if the family is dealing with a professional funeral director.

“They will know what to do with a deceased body which must be repatriated. They will decide whether to partly embalm or to embalm fully as well as deal with accident bodies by doing any cosmetics required.

“Reputable funeral directors will know the international requirements as set down by IATA and other stakeholders on how to repatriate a deceased body,” Dr Makina said.

  • fanuel.kangondo@zimpapers.co.zw