Chaotic funeral industry value chain is now a national crisis

Issued by Jacques Smalle MP – DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA)
08 Aug 2023 in News
  • The deplorable state of mortuaries across the country is cause for growing concern. 
  • Government regulations on the management of human remains are not being adhered to. 
  • The DA urges the appointment of an inter-ministerial committee to investigate the crisis and provide recommendations to strengthen the regulatory environment. 

Note to editors: Please find attached Afrikaans and English soundbite by Jacques Smalle MP.  

The DA will write to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Thembi Nkadimeng, requesting that she urgently appoints an Inter-Ministerial Committee to investigate the ongoing crisis in the funeral industry and provide recommendations on how to strengthen the regulatory environment.

There are growing concerns about the deplorable state of mortuaries across the country. The appalling state of the government-run Gauteng Pinetown mortuary was exposed in the media. Pictures of human remains being discharged into the sewer system revealed the extent of the rot. This shocking practice has obvious implications for the environment, as the discharge can contaminate the underwater system and pollute the water infrastructure system.

It is clear that the government’s own regulations on the management of human remains, regulations no R363 of 22 May 2013 as framed in terms of the National Health Act, 2003 (act no 61 of 2003), are not being adhered to.

The reality is that conditions at mortuaries are much worse than initially thought and this is exacerbated by an ineffective management system to oversee these institutions. For example, pathologists at Hillbrow conduct more than 4000 autopsies a year between 5 doctors who are employed at the facility.

Some industry players fear that with no regulatory framework in place to regulate the industry – fly by night funeral parlours are preying on grieving families struggling to obtain post-mortems to facilitate the burial of their loved ones, to charge exorbitant fees of between R4000 and R7000 to get bodies released for burials. In some instances, these unscrupulous funeral parlours are allegedly colluding with off-duty state pathologists to facilitate this swindle.

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