Kicking the bucket in Swaziland

Charles 2 Comments

The Times of Swaziland is in a lather about deceaseds, feckless young men and undertakers. Terrific stuff, this.

They could care less how they lead their sorry lives. 

All they want is to get a great send-off when they ultimately kick the proverbial bucket.

It’s so discouraging.

Funeral undertakers are having the time of their lives, as a result – if you excuse the pun.

They are taking full advantage of the sad situation and making a killing – if you forgive me for using a pun yet again. 

Everyday, we are bombarded with advertisements of good funeral packages and phone numbers of the right people to call in the event you die.

You wonder if you will even be capable of making phone calls in that state. They do not care. All they want is your money, dead or alive. 

I say ‘dead or alive’ because these shysters will break everything down to you nicely, offering you attractive funeral plans for which you pay as little as E2 per day or whatever.

They are beaming those adverts to able-bodied men, women and children who still have their whole lives ahead of them. 

They want you to start planning for your funeral long before you get diabetes or are start walking around crime-ridden areas like Mbhuleni at night.

They want you to pay and pay and pay…long before you die.

When you die, they will make quick calculations and find that you had contributed at least E19 275 in total to their coffers over the years. 

Your reward? E10 000 as a lump sum for you to have a dignified funeral; well-serviced hearse to take you to the cemetery, clean-shaven and energetic young men to drive you there and set up the tent, a casket with bronze handles and more of the same. 

At the end of the day (or your life), you would have made a loss of over E9 000!

I have always had a problem with funeral undertakers – and the people who fall for their tricks hook, line and sinker. 

But seriously…why can’t everyone concentrate on having a healthy and rewarding life? Why should we only be concerned about funerals? Is death now more important than life?

Take these young men who drive around in Golf Velocity hatch-backs, for instance. 

We all know how they struggle to keep those cars clean by taking them to the carwash every other day (they would be caught dead washing the vehicles themselves). They struggle to have enough money for petrol but are always behind the steering wheel. 

They are putting up appearances, mostly to impress those impressionable girls and good-for-nothing women. Back home, they have very empty refrigerators. They neither have pots nor plates and the only thing in their cupboards are cockroaches. 

Even though they have several children from different mothers, most still live in their parents’ houses, making you wonder where they do the nasty business of procreation.

These young men could care less how they live. They have no ambition whatsoever but when the adverts for ‘dignified funeral plans’ come on while they watch TV, they sit up straight.

Having a grand funeral is all they live for. 

That is probably why funerals have become events where folks parade the latest fashion trends, turning up in expensive suits, shiny shoes and designer-label sunshades.

Many make sure they arrive in big shiny cars. 

They hire them from car-rental companies if they have to – anything for a dignified funeral.

Four young men from my village back in the bundus were abandoned by their father at a very young age. He never cared whether they went to school or not. He did not know what they had for supper on any given day and could care less what they wore.

Their mother decided to leave for South Africa where she had relatives.

She tried hard to scrape a dignified life for her children and they grew up to be respected citizens. Then their father back home died. They did not want to go to the funeral but relatives spent tens of Emalangeni worth of airtime convincing them. 

They decided to come but chose to arrive a few hours before the actual funeral.

This meant arriving late at night to join the loud and cheerful Zionists at the vigil. Yes, I said ‘cheerful.’

When time came for the funeral procession to proceed to the graveyard, everybody was given the chance to pay their last respects by getting a glimpse of the deceased lying ‘in state.’ 

That was the cue for the four young men, who seemed to have rehearsed their next move.

They ran towards the expensive coffin and started kicking it with their Nike trainers. They kicked it on the sides, jumped on it and kicked it again. It was about to crumble when community police arrived to calm them down. The gentlemen from the well-known funeral under-taker could only watch in dismay as their dignified funeral turned into a tragic circus. 

While kicking the coffin, the man’s sons were repeatedly shouting, “You fool, you failed to take us to school but had money for such an expensive coffin?” Then you say you want a dignified funeral? Get a life!



  1. Charles

    Splendidly articulate challenge to warped values.

    Some sorts of African funerals have become prey to consumerism and vanity.

    Other modes are cheap and cathartic: three days of embodied grieving in community. No coffin, traditionally. The recitation of lineage. The honouring of the dead one’s trade. Support for the bereaved. No sign of either ‘dignity’ or ‘funeral directors’, except in the roles undertaken by community members who put out the call, prepare the space, keep an eye on the vulnerable.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>