NFDA Not Opposed to a Funeral Service Ombudsman

The NFDA is not opposed to the introduction of a funeral services ombudsman- in fact we welcome it. We do, however, have an issue with the way that the Funeral Services Code was gazetted without any consultation. Consultation takes place before the fact, not after.
Johan Rosseau of FIRA has stated, on radio, that his research is available to anyone who requests it. A member of the NFDA EXCO has written to him, asking for a copy of these documents. It would be interesting to see the outcome of this request.

We would also like to know what constitutes being an expert in the funeral industry? Is it the number of years that a person has worked in the industry, or the number of funeral businesses that you have run?
Many of the stories that have been run on FIRA’s social media pages date back many years. These incidents are rehashed, making them seem as if they have occurred recently. Whilst we do not doubt that there are instances of poor service, and of companies acting in an unethical manner, we feel that the number of transgressions has decreased in the past years, mainly due to the existence of various associations.

If we take that there are 54 000 000 people in SA, and we have a death rate of around 13.05 deaths per 1000 people, we have about 700 000 funerals per annum in SA. The number of complaints that we receive, or hear about, is minute in comparison with the number of funerals conducted. We would like it if there were no complaints at all, but we are dealing with people who are fallible, so mistakes can happen.

The NFDA is of the opinion that the current process of the appointment of a funeral services ombudsman is reminiscent of the drafting of the ill-fated Gauteng Funeral Regulations that was developed at great cost to the province a few years ago by the same person that is pushing the Funeral Services Code.

KZN Trio Used “Loaned” Corpse in Fraudulent Insurance Claim – Police

Three people are expected to appear in the Durban Commercial Crime Court on Monday for alleged insurance fraud involving a “loaned” corpse, the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal said on Wednesday.

The three, aged between 38 and 52, appeared in the court on May 25, where they were each granted R5 000 bail and their case was postponed, spokesperson Lieutenant Simphiwe Mhlongo said. According to an SABC report, the alleged multi-million-rand fraud syndicate involved a private security company. Two of the three suspects are a security guard and a funeral parlour employee.

The matter came to light when an insurance company approached police with suspicions about a claim. They determined that a 40-year-old woman had lodged a life insurance claim for her uncle. She was the main beneficiary of the policy.  Police apparently discovered that the uncle had died years earlier, but that Home Affairs had no record of it.

The woman allegedly colluded with a funeral parlour, which “loaned” her a corpse that matched her uncle. A doctor allegedly certified that the person had died from natural causes.

Source – NEWS24

Service SETA Training

A special committee has been set up by the Service SETA, made up of four NFDA, four SAFPA and two IFDA members.  This committee will meet once a quarter to assist with training-related activities such as evaluating learning materials, determining training needs in the industry, ensuring training of assessors and moderators, and providing input for the development of a new qualification.

Service SETA put out a tender in December 2015 for a project manager to oversee training in the industry, and this committee will work closely with the company that has been awarded the tender.

In the meantime two training providers have been accredited by the SETA, and will soon start with training and RPL.  These are Nomatye Funeral Services from East London with Ms Daphne Mbewana as manager, and ATTI (Advanced Technology Training Institute) from Nelspruit. More provider accreditation is in the pipeline, so things are going to start happening in the training arena.  Get ready or prepare your staff to soon obtain much needed and long overdue qualifications.

Genes Get Active After Death – New Scientist


When a doctor declares a person dead, some of their body may still be alive and kicking – at least for a day or two. New evidence in animals suggests that many genes go on working for up to 48 hours after the lights have gone out.

This hustle and bustle has been seen in mice and zebrafish, but there are hints that genes are also active for some time in deceased humans. This discovery could have implications for the safety of organ transplants, and can also help pathologists pinpoint a time of death more precisely, perhaps to within minutes of the event.

Peter Noble and Alex Pozhitkov at the University of Washington, Seattle, and their colleagues investigated the activity of genes in the organs of mice and zebrafish immediately after death. They did this by measuring the amount of messenger RNA present. An increase in this mRNA – which genes use to tell cells to make products such as proteins – indicates that genes are more active.

Noble’s team measured mRNA levels in zebrafish, and in brain and liver samples from mice at regular intervals for up to four days after death. They then compared these with mRNA levels measured at the time of death.

“Hundreds of genes with different functions woke up after death, including fetal development genes”

As you might expect, overall mRNA levels decreased over time. However, mRNA associated with 548 zebrafish genes and 515 mouse genes saw one or more peaks of activity after death. This meant there was sufficient energy and cellular function for some genes to be switched on and stay active long after the animal died.

These genes cycled through peaks and dips in activity in a “non-winding down” manner, unlike the chaotic behaviour of the rest of the decaying DNA, says Noble.

Hundreds of genes with different functions “woke up” immediately after death. These included fetal development genes that usually turn off after birth, as well as genes that have previously been associated with cancer. Their activity peaked about 24 hours after death.

A similar process might occur in humans. Previous studies have shown that various genes, including those involved in contracting heart muscle and wound healing, were active more than 12 hours after death in humans who had died from multiple trauma, heart attack or suffocation (Forensic Science International,

The fact that some genes associated with cancer are activated after death in animals, might be relevant for reducing the incidence of cancer in people who receive organ transplants, says Noble. People who get a new liver, for example, have more cancers after the treatment than you would expect if they hadn’t had a transplant. The regime of drugs they need to take for life to suppress their immune system so it doesn’t attack the new organ may contribute to this, but Noble says it is worth investigating if activated cancer genes in the donor liver could play a part.

So why do so many genes wake up after death? It is possible that many of the genes become active as part of physiological processes that aid healing or resuscitation after severe injury. For example, after death, some cells might have enough energy to kick-start genes involved in the inflammation process to protect against damage – just as they would if the body were alive.

Alternatively, a rapid decay of genes that normally suppress other genes – such as those involved in embryological development – might allow the usually quiet genes to become active for a short period of time.

For forensic scientists, knowing how gene activity rises and falls at different time points after death is useful for working out when someone died. Measuring mRNA would allow us to nail down the time since death to hours and possibly even minutes, rather than days, helping to reconstruct events surrounding the death.

It is good to see such progress being made in this area, says Graham Williams, consultant forensic geneticist at the University of Huddersfield, UK. “But substantial work is required before this could be applied to case work.”

The research also raises important questions about our definition of death – normally accepted as the cessation of a heartbeat, brain activity and breathing. If genes can be active up to 48 hours

Watch Out For Burn Out!

Constant calls, 14 hour days, funeral arrangements, comforting grieving families, graveside services—the list goes on. As a funeral director, your week is busy and unpredictable. And nowadays it has become vital that you manage your online presence, too.

The role of a funeral director isn’t an easy one. When most of your job revolves around helping others, it can be easy to forget to help yourself. Don’t let the stress of the job burn you out.

Forbes recently listed event coordinator as the 5th most stressful job in 2016. Funeral directors often draw comparisons to event coordinators. Funeral directors essentially are event coordinators—with a handful of other tasks and half the time to plan. On top of everything else, a funeral director is a pillar of support to grieving families. To say the job is stressful would be an understatement.

Stress can take a real toll over time. Not only does it affect your productivity, it will eventually cause physical ailments. Job stress can lead to hypertension and cardiovascular problems. The American Psychological Association found that “burnout—defined as persistent emotional exhaustion, physical fatigue and cognitive weariness—may negatively affect workers’ physical health more than previously believed.”

Let’s look at some tips you can use to counter the stress.

Physical health

This is probably the first area to shows signs of stress. The good news: it’s also the easiest to remedy.

Questions to ask yourself: How are you sleeping at night? Are you always feeling sluggish or tired? Do you have any tension in your body? Do you feel achy?

Make sure to devote time to physical activities whenever possible. A little physical activity can boost your mood. Try to make it a daily routine.

Some tips:

  • Join a gym
    • Sign up for a fitness class, or find a partner to exercise with
  • Go for a run or walk each day
  • Take the stairs if possible
  • Get a massage
  • Maintain a healthy diet / Eat home-cooked meals
  • Start a personal garden, or join a community garden

Try to get a daily routine going. Anything that gets you up and moving for 30 minutes a day can help reduce the effects of stress on your body. Incorporate new activities into your life.

Mental Health

It’s a little easier to focus on physical health. Keeping an eye on your own mental well-being is trickier, but just as important. Job stress can lead to depression, anxiety, and poor decision making.

Questions to ask yourself: Are you constantly forgetting things? Do you feel like your thoughts aren’t clear? How are your relationships with your friends/family? How do you process and deal with your emotions? How often are you taking time off? How many hours do you work a week?

Try keeping a journal of your thoughts. Studies have shown that writing will improve your emotional health. It can help you identify and express your emotions better.

Some Tips:

  • Take a “me” day to reset yourself
  • Get outside and into the sun
  • Get a pet, or a plant
  • Force yourself to have leisure time
  • Set time aside to meet with friends and family
  • Volunteer
  • Write a weekly list of what you are thankful for
  • Try learning a new activity

At the end of the day, you’re the one that knows you best. Make sure to stop and treat yourself.

eMalahleni Crematorium Opens its doors

eMalahleni Crematorium will be opening its doors for business within the next week and filling a huge gap in this sensitive area to the citizens of eMalahleni and Mpumalanga.

The requirement for a local crematorium was identified more than 2 years ago and since then the dream became a reality for Leon Smit, the owner/operator.

Many people still wonder whether it is ethical to be cremated.   Irrespective of race, religion, cultural background this is becoming the norm.   Just as the body decomposes when it is buried, during a cremation the body decomposes, at a much higher rate only.   In case of a burial, precious and scarce land is taken up and a tombstone is erected, all at a high cost.   With a cremation, the remains (ashes) are provided to the family that can do whatever they want to do with that.   You no longer need to maintain a grave in an overcrowded and unmaintained graveyard where robberies and hi-jacking are fast becoming the norm.   You can actually put that person to rest where they want to be – under an evergreen tree, at the top of a mountain, in the garden where the person enjoyed life.   The choice remains yours!

The state of the art facility is situated in the old Pretoria Road Cemetery next to the N4. Close family members are able to view the preparation and cremation from a private viewing room.   Interested parties are more than welcome to get more information on the process and the facility from Leon at the crematorium.

The facility will strive to offer a same day service to ensure that the process is not unnecessarily extended and will try to adhere to all requests.   The management and staff promises to offer you a service with Compassion, dignity and respect.


Cremation with

Compassion – Dignity – Respect

Being cremated has become more acceptable for all cultural groups because:

  • It is cheaper than traditional burials.
  • Cremation costs are covered by funeral policies.
  • Family can attend the cremation service / Family viewing room available.
  • It offers a personalised and dignified option in terms of the memorial service and can accommodate any religious ceremony.
  • Cemeteries are full and not maintained.
  • Tombstones are stolen or damaged.

As an associated member of the National Funeral Directors Association the privately owned Emalahleni Crematorium offers:

  • Same day cremations.
  • Collection of remains from undertakers if required.
  • Guaranteed Individual cremations.
  • Remains handled with dignity and respect.
  • Ashes packed and ready for collection within 24 hours.
  • A variety of free caskets for ashes are available.

E-mail: 1977 460

Member Matters

  1. By the end of May 2016, 23 more embalmers will have been trained by the NFDA. Remember, if you snooze, you loose.
  1. All members should please take note that the following procedure will be followed if a member has not paid membership fees by the end of May:
  • The member will receive a letter indicating that there is 6 months grace for payment before they will be suspended.
  • At the end of the 6 months the member will be phoned to be informed that they are suspended.
  • A letter of termination of membership will be sent if there is no response or payment within the 6 months.
  • A list of non-payments will then be distributed to the regions.
  • As final step a list of suspended members will be published in the newsletter and members should be advised to check the date and colour on member cards when removing bodies from other parlours.
  1. If a member resigns from the NFDA, Home Affairs will be notified that the member is no longer part of an association. For members to be in good standing they need to pay membership fees on time and attend at least one NFDA meeting per year.
  1. When the Department of Health issues a new CoC for your premises, please submit this to the office.
  1. Please alert the office when you open a new office of purchase a new hearse so that such news can be included in the magazine.

Sanlam defends funeral insurance deductions from grants

Life insurer Sanlam has defended its practice of making funeral policy deductions from social grants, noting these deductions are in line with regulations and that the policies are offered to consenting adults. Social grant deductions are one of several payment mechanisms designed to provide “ease of payment and convenience”, as well as access to financial services to policyholders, notes Jurie Strydom, deputy CEO of Sanlam Personal Finance.

In terms of the Social Assistance Act, funeral policies qualify as the only legal deduction against a social grant, provided they are issued by a registered insurance company and do not exceed 10% of the value of the grant.

Following a “clean-up project” by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), which administers these grants, to “regularise unlawful funeral premium deductions”, Regulation 26A of the Act was amended earlier this month. In particular, deductions may no longer be made from child support grants, among others, after it emerged during Sassa’s investigations that funeral policies had been sold to the adult recipients of these grants, who were paying for them using grant money intended for the child.

In addition, the beneficiary of the grant must consent to the deduction in writing and submit the consent in person to Sassa or, where such is not possible, make alternative arrangements. The Agency is concerned that written consent obtained by insurance companies from beneficiaries may be fraudulent or ill informed.

Sanlam, however, argues that its policy forms include direct requests from beneficiaries to Sassa that deductions are made. It further argues that Sassa, which holds no financial advice licence, does not have power in terms of any regulations to investigate contracts for funeral insurance taken out by beneficiaries.

While Sanlam says it supports government’s efforts to clean up the grant deductions landscape, it notes in court papers that Sassa has submitted no evidence of complaints from grant beneficiaries that deductions for funeral insurance premiums are unlawful. “The papers are replete with complaints from beneficiaries about unlawful deductions for airtime, loan repayments, electricity and water charges,” Sanlam says. Funeral insurance, on the other hand, offers tremendous social value, Sanlam argues.

The Department of Social Development has recognised the important role that funeral insurance plays in the lives of the majority of grant recipients, according to Sanlam, which cites estimates from the department that poor households can commonly spend more than 15 times their monthly household income on a funeral.

“Funeral insurance enables poor households to provide for funerals in a structured manner that prevents financial ruin in the event of a member passing away. Its social value cannot be doubted,” Sanlam submits in court papers.

Strydom notes that Sanlam respects Sassa’s decision “to withdraw the right of beneficiaries of child grants to make use of deductions from child grants to pay funeral policy premiums”. “The impact of the moratorium on Sanlam’s financial performance is immaterial. Where a policyholder has elected to make use of a social grant deduction, Sanlam does not have access to information on the nature of grant. Sassa has until now not required that a distinction be made between grants that qualify for deduction and those that do not,” Strydom noted. He said that policyholders impacted by the changes would be given an opportunity to make use of alternative payment mechanisms, such as cash and debit orders.

Sanlam is currently engaged in court action with Sassa over the correct implementation of Regulation 26A, which action was recently postponed following the amendment to the regulation.

Sanlam believes that if correctly implemented, Regulation 26A obliges Sassa to make funeral insurance deductions from grants before they are paid into beneficiary bank accounts. This allows permissible deductions to be managed under Sassa’s control, Sanlam argues, removing these deductions from the debit order environment, which is where “defrauding and exploitation of grant beneficiaries occur”, it says.

Government says stop selling insurance to the poorest people!

South Africa’s government said it plans to protect the country’s poorest people by stopping insurers from selling funeral cover to welfare recipients.

The companies that could be impacted include Sanlam, the biggest insurer based in South Africa, and Lion of Africa Assurance Co. They are among companies selling funeral cover that is paid for from welfare grants meant for children. Other companies sometimes draw money from social grants for other services, a practice which is illegal.

The government will replace private schemes with a state-run funeral plan, Minister for Social Development Bathabile Dlamini said in a speech to parliament on Wednesday. “The absence of a funeral benefit has opened our social grant beneficiaries to exploitation by private-insurance companies,” Dlamini said. “The lack of government action to protect them has led to a very loud outcry by our beneficiaries and various civil-society organizations.”

Sanlam and Lion of Africa are both trying to maintain the current system through separate court cases being heard this month. About 16.9 million people are on welfare, more than the number in work. That’s part of the post-apartheid government’s attempt to reduce poverty and narrow inequality in a nation with one of the world’s biggest gaps between rich and poor. About 70% of the grants are for children.

While the government can stop deductions being made before the grants go into a recipients’ account, it will struggle to implement a complete ban on the practice, Lion of Africa CEO Paul Myeza said by phone.  “It doesn’t dramatically change the landscape,” Myeza said. “Those members can buy policies like anyone else. It’s an open market.”

While Lion of Africa won an interdict against a moratorium stopping all new deductions from child grants, Sanlam said it had complied with the measure. Its case, to be heard on May 10, seeks to clarify how a process to clean-up the industry is implemented.

“Sanlam supports the new moratorium and we’ve applied it as of December 1,” Jurie Strydom, the deputy CEO of its Sky division, said by phone on Thursday. “Sanlam is not party to the legal action taken by Lion of Africa Assurance.”

The law currently allows deductions from social grants for a single funeral insurance policy amounting to a maximum of 10% of the grant. Many on welfare complain that there are many deductions being made for funeral cover and other services without them being aware that they signed up for them, according to the government.

Minister Dlamini will on Friday announce new measures to end all deductions from social grants, her spokeswoman Lumka Oliphant said by phone..

Lion of Africa calculations show there’s a risk of between 30% and 156% of a funeral policy payout, because as many as eight people can be covered by a family policy, according to its actuarial head EC du Toit.

© 2016 Bloomberg