We need a minister of state funerals… or do we?_1

Special official funerals for outstanding citizens is great, but it can be an unnecessary expense to the taxpayer and a chance for unscrupulous government officials to steal money. Official funerals for every VIP is at the expense of the state – and one may ask how the president or the state decides whether one person is more important that the other? I was reminded of this by a friend who wrote on social media that considering the number of VVIPs – politicians, musicians, artists, sports people, top businessmen – the country has, we should have a department of state funerals....
Special official funerals for outstanding citizens is great, but it can be an unnecessary expense to the taxpayer and a chance for unscrupulous government officials to steal money.

Official funerals for every VIP is at the expense of the state – and one may ask how the president or the state decides whether one person is more important that the other?

I was reminded of this by a friend who wrote on social media that considering the number of VVIPs – politicians, musicians, artists, sports people, top businessmen – the country has, we should have a department of state funerals.

That department must have a complete leadership organogram – a Cabinet minister, deputy minister, director-general and deputy directors-general in charge of events coordination and equipment hire.

Although my friend Ntja Mapheelle’s chat was hypothetical and tongue-in-cheek with some exaggeration to emphasise his point, the expenses involving state, or official funerals is a reality. There are many high-profile people the country has to bury and spend a lot of money in the process.

We have many business tycoons, celebrities and other dignitaries with enough money to organise their own funerals, without the need for the state to assist.

Yes, official funerals are great, but the expense that goes with it should be scrutinised. It may not be necessary for some who could afford a burial.

If an official funeral is meant to merely honour the individual; to acknowledge his or her contribution to society, then it is justified – but expenses must be limited.

Government can still honour individuals without a lavish sponsoring of their funerals. Just the police decorum and lowering of flags should be sufficient to show respect to the community member who made an outstanding contribution to the country and its people, such as Dr Richard Maponya and other businessmen who shared their billions through philanthropic gestures.

Unless the funerals are used by politicians as channels to line their pockets – and that is criminal. This happened in the Eastern Cape when some Buffalo City councillors and provincial politicians stole state money meant for Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

Government must be selective when it comes to individuals who must be honoured – even if they were considered important.

Various people are important in various ways, but that does not qualify them for state-sponsored funerals.

Many SA artists – particularly actors and musicians – always complain about the alleged government failure to take care of them, when they should be taking care of themselves by saving money, taking up funeral policies, insurances and investments while they were still alive, to prepare for the dark days and death.

Some spoilt-brat celebrities tend to spend all their money on luxuries such as expensive cars, houses and clothes. But when they die, their families cry foul, accusing the authorities of not looking after them.

Even an ordinary village or township pensioner granny, or the aunties from kasi, know they have to join funeral schemes and stokvels to be able to deal with the costs of funerals and other expenses, such as education for their children…

Expecting government’s handouts is just silly.

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