Undertakers are threatening to go on strike, saying all members of 17 black funeral associations and forums would be non-operational in all provinces from today.
According to the co-ordinator of the Unification Task Team, Peter Matlatle, the association has given notice to the National Health Department that its members will embark on a national strike starting from today that will affect all hospitals across the country after failing to reach an agreement on the outsourcing of mortuary facilities owned by black funeral undertakers to be recognised and legalised amid the Covid-19 lockdown.
Members of funeral associations part of the Unification Task Team have gathered outside the Magwaza Maphalala Street Mortuary in Durban as part of the national strike. #Covid19 regulations not adhered to, with 2 members indulging in alcohol before striking @Newzroom405 pic.twitter.com/lUjKvIgRCQ— Karinda Jagmohan (@Karinda_J) September 14, 2020
The Health Department says while it will not allow non-compliance to legislation in the funeral undertaking sector, it is open to continue talks with undertakers who are set to down tools.
“We will not allow non-compliance to legislation in this sensitive area. The Department of Health is willing to continue with talks with the funeral parlour sector to come to an amicable solution,” said the Health Department in a statement on Sunday.
The Department is aware that a group of funeral undertakers are planning to shut down the collection of human remains from private and public health facilities. This is very concerning as this action may lead to undesired conditions and risks to public health pic.twitter.com/pDMfkAZ5WD— Department of Health (@HealthZA) September 13, 2020
According to the department, two virtual meetings were arranged in August and one physical meeting at the beginning of September. These meetings were as a result of an open letter by the National Funeral Practitioners of Association of South Africa. This is the only association that wrote to the department.
Following the meetings, the department emphasised that all funeral undertakers and mortuary premises used in connection with the preparation, storage and preservation of human remains must be in possession of a valid certificate of competence issued by the relevant local authority.
“Environmental health practitioners are and will continue to conduct inspections at all funeral undertakers’ premises in the country to check compliance with the regulations. Legal action will be taken against owners of premises found to be in contravention.
“Family members are urged to check the legitimacy of the undertakers and agents being utilised for overall management of the burial of their loved ones to ensure proper tracking and tracing, and that the handling of the remains is done with dignity and within the law,” said the department.
On any issues relating to the management of human remains and for advice to ensure compliance with the regulations, the department urged the public to contact environmental health practitioners in district and metropolitan municipalities for assistance.
“We further call upon members of the public to report any illegal operations to ensure the public can be protected from potential risks and the spread of communicable diseases as a result of poor management of human remains,” said the department.