Monday, October 25, 2021

Botswana buckles under the high cost of dying

If you have had a conversation with someone who has been to a funeral lately there is a good chance the subject veered to how glamorous the coffin was or how well attended the burial was.

Botswana funerals have become an expensive and flaunty spectacle as grieving families try to outdo each other in giving their loved ones the most lavish send off.

Senior Sociology lecturer at The University of Botswana, Dr Sethunya Mosime says emotions have always been a big business. “Everything from tombstones, memorial services and after tears is lavish, nothing is plainly done nowadays. Weddings and funerals have become so grand that they are an economy on their own; profits are made from people’s fear of shame, embarrassment and ideas of respectability. People approach things emotionally rather than pragmatically, from the choice of the vehicles used in funerals to the food and for as long as people choose to spend lavishly, the funeral business will continue growing.”

Traditional Setswana funerals are a weeklong spending spree from the minute the corpse is taken to the parlour to feeding friends relatives and sympathisers while waiting for other relatives to arrive from overseas to pay their last respect and be part of the burial.

Pre-burial proceedings cost money, the funeral parlour charges per day, the food (a cow and/or goats are slaughtered) and drinks consumed by mourners before the actual burial day cost money. A proper cow is P4 000 to P7 000. Food can cost an average of P3 000 to P5 000 excluding the cow. An average funeral will set a family back P30 000 no frills. A top-of-the range funeral where no expense is spared for the coffin, flowers, tent hire and tombstone can you set you back as much as P200.000.00

As with weddings and celebrations in general, trends change, funerals are no different. Gone are the days when loved ones were wrapped in cow skin and laid in the ground. A new trend to make funerals more elegant and bespoke has caused the cost of funerals to rise dramatically.  Funerals have become a booming business for many, from caterers to funeral parlours; everyone seems to be cashing in. Nowadays, funerals typically involve a funeral director to help oversee the proceedings. Their roles include transporting the deceased body, embalming, handling all paperwork, dealing with the deceased personal affairs, arranging the ceremony and this includes the coffin, the hall, the service, flowers and food.

 

Boitumelo Gare a land surveyor at Geo Surv in Gaborone says people spend ridiculous amounts of money on funerals when in actual fact it is really not necessary “People won’t admit to borrowing money to pull of these lavish events they call funerals, often times, this type of opulence has nothing to do with honouring our loved ones and is really more about our desire to show off, they have that thing of proving people wrong, that ‘I can afford to give my father or mother a big funeral.”

Thapelo Diane who works at Haskins in Gaborone says lavish expensive weddings are the in thing but they leave us bankrupt. “When we spend all that money, I think we’re really honouring our own egos and trying to impress our friends and communities, we don’t want our friends, neighbours and families to think less of us or to judge us for not putting on a good show for them. It is this very train of thought that gets so many families stuck in debt for months and sometimes even years after their loved one has passed”

If you have had a conversation with someone who has been to a funeral lately there is a good chance the subject veered to how glamorous the coffin was or how well attended the burial was.

Botswana funerals have become an expensive and flaunty spectacle as grieving families try to outdo each other in giving their loved ones the most lavish send off.

Senior Sociology lecturer at The University of Botswana, Dr Sethunya Mosime says emotions have always been a big business. “Everything from tombstones, memorial services and after tears is lavish, nothing is plainly done nowadays. Weddings and funerals have become so grand that they are an economy on their own; profits are made from people’s fear of shame, embarrassment and ideas of respectability. People approach things emotionally rather than pragmatically, from the choice of the vehicles used in funerals to the food and for as long as people choose to spend lavishly, the funeral business will continue growing.”

Traditional Setswana funerals are a weeklong spending spree from the minute the corpse is taken to the parlour to feeding friends relatives and sympathisers while waiting for other relatives to arrive from overseas to pay their last respect and be part of the burial.

Pre-burial proceedings cost money, the funeral parlour charges per day, the food (a cow and/or goats are slaughtered) and drinks consumed by mourners before the actual burial day cost money. A proper cow is P4 000 to P7 000. Food can cost an average of P3 000 to P5 000 excluding the cow. An average funeral will set a family back P30 000 no frills. A top-of-the range funeral where no expense is spared for the coffin, flowers, tent hire and tombstone can you set you back as much as P200.000.00

As with weddings and celebrations in general, trends change, funerals are no different. Gone are the days when loved ones were wrapped in cow skin and laid in the ground. A new trend to make funerals more elegant and bespoke has caused the cost of funerals to rise dramatically.  Funerals have become a booming business for many, from caterers to funeral parlours; everyone seems to be cashing in. Nowadays, funerals typically involve a funeral director to help oversee the proceedings. Their roles include transporting the deceased body, embalming, handling all paperwork, dealing with the deceased personal affairs, arranging the ceremony and this includes the coffin, the hall, the service, flowers and food.

 

Boitumelo Gare a land surveyor at Geo Surv in Gaborone says people spend ridiculous amounts of money on funerals when in actual fact it is really not necessary “People won’t admit to borrowing money to pull of these lavish events they call funerals, often times, this type of opulence has nothing to do with honouring our loved ones and is really more about our desire to show off, they have that thing of proving people wrong, that ‘I can afford to give my father or mother a big funeral.”

Thapelo Diane who works at Haskins in Gaborone says lavish expensive weddings are the in thing but they leave us bankrupt. “When we spend all that money, I think we’re really honouring our own egos and trying to impress our friends and communities, we don’t want our friends, neighbours and families to think less of us or to judge us for not putting on a good show for them. It is this very train of thought that gets so many families stuck in debt for months and sometimes even years after their loved one has passed.”

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