Wednesday, 15 April 2020

BODIES REPATRIATION HEADACHE


SOUTH Africa-based funeral parlours are engaging authorities to ensure that there is a smooth process to repatriate bodies through Beitbridge Border Post for burial in Zimbabwe.

The parlours are concerned with the manner in which the process is being handled with ever-changing rules and regulations on both sides of the border.

Under normal circumstances at least 60 bodies are brought into the country through Beitbridge Border Post weekly for burial.

As a result of the state of affairs, six bodies were returned to Johannesburg on Wednesday last week after the parlours reportedly failed to meet some regulations which are being rolled out under the lockdown guidelines in both Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Chronicle understands that initially one relative and the hearse drivers were allowed passage into the country, but now that has been changed.

Under the new changes, only the South African parlour’s driver is expected to leave the human remains with Zimbabwean parlours at Beitbridge Border Post for onward transportation.

However, this has been met with logistical challenges with parlours from the two countries yet to agree on sharing transportation fees. On average it costs R15 000 to repatriate the remains of a Zimbabwean from South Africa. 

The chairman of the Inner-City Funeral Directors Association-South Africa (IFDA-SA), Mr Nkosi Kwanike Nare said yesterday that the state of affairs has resulted in bodies piling up in Johannesburg mortuaries.

He said one of their members was recently fined R18 000 for overloading their morgue with three bodies.

“As an association, we support all attempts by Sadc governments to curb the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa, Zimbabwe and in the region,” he said.

“We comprehend the necessity of implementation of lockdown and all set out statutory instruments as provided by the respective authorities.

“Additionally, we understand that there has been so much panic from every one of us resulting in these spontaneous measures being put in place, in an attempt to harness and arrest the spread of Covid-19.

“As dedicated stakeholders, we have adopted the worst case scenario stance, whereby all-natural deaths cases are treated as Covid-19 cases. This is done to enhance precautionary measures to ensure that our staff and clients are all safe”. 

Mr Nare said they had since tabled a number of proposed safe repatriation measures to Zimbabwean and South African authorities for consideration.

These, he said include the sharing of drivers by its members, especially those who have a sound geographic knowledge of Zimbabwe and were also prepared to repatriate human remains without any family member on board.

The official said they were also proposing that their funeral assistants/drivers meet at the nearest agreed point with the bereaved family in Zimbabwe.

“As a safety precaution, our drivers will be accompanied by a fully completed RG1 Form for port health human remains declaration to facilitate information accuracy,” said Mr Nare.

“The drivers also have a full set of Person Protective Equipment (PPE) and they will return at the drop-off and shall not be part of the funeral proceedings thereby minimising the risk of cross-contamination.

“In addition, we will attempt to have Covid-19 rapid test kits in place so that the funeral assistant/driver may be tested on both trips.

“As IFDA-SA, we commit to policing our members in adhering our set regulations and all enacted by the government”.

Mr Nare said in addition to the repatriation documents, the drivers will possess a supplementary driver’s confirmation letter (original) from the IFDA-SA and an essential service provider permit. Chronicle

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