What can the government do to guarantee that the nation’s fallen heroes are given the funeral services they deserve? The Zimbabwe death care industry wants more government regulations and enforcement around the National Heroes Act. Allowing mourning families to select there preferred death care provider as well as giving businesses throughout the funeral industry an equal opportunity to assist in services.
Robert Mugabe recent funeral fiasco
Zimbabwe funeral policies were most recently in the press with the passing of ex-president Robert Mugabe this past September. Government, family, and traditional leaders bitterly disputed about how and where is an appropriate place to lay the controversial leader to rest. In the end an agreement was met, but no one was truly left happy. Mugabe was finally buried in his hometown and only approved guests were allowed, which was a decision out of sync with the local tradition that funerals are free for all to attend.
That was however merely one of many decisions out of sync with local protocol. Most top figures, like Mugabe, are meant to be buried at the National Heroes Acre monument. Which Mugabe was responsible for building during his presidency. As expected in a politically polarized environment there is, of course, controversy over which figures deserve to be enshrined there. And the controversy doesn’t fall short of the funeral industry members themselves, who are debating on who has the right to assist these important figures in finally being laid to rest.
A funeral home legacy
Doves funeral services, which has been in operation since 1902, has managed most if not all high profile services for the past 117 years, in reportedly opaque arrangements made directly with government officials. However, similar projects in other fields require that the government works with contracts that clearly list the terms and provisions which industry players abide by in order to be apart of the bidding process.
To help create an even playing field the funeral industry is pressuring the Competition and Tariffs Commission (CTC) to step in and regulate the Home Affairs Ministry, who arranges the burials of nationals heroes.
According to the Insurance and Pensions Commission Nyaradzo and Moonlight are currently the leading business in the Zimbabwe funeral industry and while Doves was the main player in 1981, when the national moment was built, the industry feels that the CTC has the responsibility to promote transparency and equal opportunities that support the best company for the role, based on a bid. Rather than the current system which also limits the rights of mourning families to choose the provider that best understands their wants and needs.
The National Heroes Act
According to the National Heroes Act, the designation of heroes is done by the President, who declared that his government respects the choices made by families of heroes and heroines, including their preferred place of burial.
Thanks to this comment small steps have been made to diversify the government funeral operation selections as Moonlight had an opportunity to bury Professor Phineas Makhurane in December last year in line with his wishes to be buried at his rural home in Gwanda. And in January this year, Nyaradzo conducted music superstar Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi’s burial rites.
However, in a revert of the progress made Robert Mugabe ́s family request for a service by Nyaradzo was denied, due to an apparent lack of resources needed for the level of the memorial that would have been performed.
While there does seem to be a prevalent bias favoring one player in the industry, it remains to be seen if the CTC will exercise its right to investigate the goings-on in the industry.