On an average Saturday, there are 80 to 90 funerals held at Avalon Cemetery in Soweto. More during the winter, reckons the guard at the gate.

As one funeral group enters, another leaves in a convoy that includes cars and two Putco buses filled with people just released from memorial services. From any one funeral, the marquee, buses and crowd of at least two others are plainly visible. And at every funeral the insignia of a different undertaker is painted on to the door of the hearse parked at the gravesite.

“There is lots of competition among undertaker companies. They are trying to outdo each other with speakers and cars,” said Pule Molabatsi, a mourner who came to pay his last respects to a neighbour.

“These are not like white funerals where people are invited,” said Molabatsi. “People from the community are expected to come to the cemetery. Where people can’t afford it, the community clubs together and burial societies step in to help with the costs.”

There are currently more than 100 000 burial societies in South Africa, according to Zulu Ratswana, general secretary of the Burial Society of South Africa, citing research conducted by the insurance sector education and training authority. A funeral can cost about R15 000, Ratswana said.

“The most expensive items are the coffin and the cow that must be slaughtered. A coffin costs R5 000, on average, and the cow about R6 000. Then there is the cost of feeding the people who come for the funeral.”

Funeral insurance policies go a long way towards covering the high cost. Although individuals can hold insurance policies, burial societies have specially designed insurance products so that members who make regular contributions can benefit from the cover.

Lavish expenses
When all is added up, a large amount of money changes hands on a regular basis. In the most recent calculation, funeral insurance contributed R4.9-billion to – and made up 1.7% of – the income of the long-term insurance industry, said Tembisa Marele, communications specialist at the Financial Services Board. This is in addition to a multitude of unlicensed insurance providers, many of which combine undertaker services and contribute to the lower end of the market.

With insurance cover, paupers are turned into princes in death. Research has shown that funeral costs weigh heavily on household funds.

Anxiety and depression
“A large amount is spent on ­animals to sacrifice, other food and on coffins. A quarter of the households borrow money, mostly from moneylenders at extremely high interest rates, in order to pay for the funeral costs.

“Households have fewer assets and report higher levels of poverty for many years after a death and this can be linked to the cost of the funeral, particularly when money was ­borrowed. We have found that children in households that experienced a death and had to pay for the funeral are less likely to be enrolled in school, and that adults in the household are more likely to show symptoms of anxiety and depression, and to report money problems.”

Efforts are under way to break the stranglehold of funeral costs. The Burial Society of South Africa was formed in 2010 as an umbrella body for burial societies across South Africa. “We are trying to say to people not to focus so much on death. It sometimes comes in 40 or 50 years, and who is going to look after the families in the meantime?” said Ratswana.

He said it was a history of deprivation that made rites of death so important. “Over time, black people focused more on burials also because of the history and lack of education because it didn’t give us things to improve our lives.”

Erik Bähre, assistant professor at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at the University of Leiden says, “The large expenditure on funerals is not traditional. Among the Xhosa, funerals usually were modest. Only recently did funerals become so expensive, probably since the 1980s. By then, some funerals became important public events in the struggle against apartheid. Comrades used – and some people that I interviewed said abused – funerals as an occasion to struggle against the atrocities of the apartheid regime. This made funerals much more than the burial of a bereaved relative, neighbour, or friend. At these funerals, public performance became more important.

“Although many feel that it is a problem to spend so much money on funerals, they also say that they cannot do anything about it. The main reason is that they are worried about their reputation. They are worried that neighbours might say that they neglected the deceased. The bereaved family is concerned about malicious gossip and that people will say that they are stingy, that they are irresponsible by not putting money aside for the funeral, or some might even say that they never really cared for the deceased.”

Finding space
The trend shows no signs of abating, leaving cemetery land at a premium. There is limited land for cemeteries; municipalities, which are responsible for maintaining them, are hard-pressed to find space.

A source from the City of Johannesburg, who asked not to be named, said there was plenty of “political pressure” on the city to make land available for burial. “In Alexandra township, for example, an election can be won or lost on the basis of burial space,” she said.

Although there is no crisis of space yet, it is suggested that overcrowding is more pronounced in black townships, where the concentration of people and the death rate are highest.

Funerals are, apparently, also going green. Wiesenhof Legacy Parks is a burial site based in Stellenbosch. Its chief executive, Werner Fouche, said that preserving nature is an imperative and their grave markers are as subtle as possible; with a plaque that barely protrudes from the ground as the most conspicuous. Another option is to use a tree as a grave marker.

“Instead of a tombstone, we can plant a tree on the grave and it becomes a living memorial. It is still a new concept,” said Fouche. Although an emphasis is placed on reducing the sinisterness, it is hardly a cheap burial option. Burials cost upwards of R28 000, and scattering ashes over the soil costs R6 000.

Clearly, when it comes to funerals, no effort is spared to comfort the living. But perhaps this is just the way it is. As the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said: “He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man.”

A deal not to be missed!!


Offering will be cost less 1% in total.

Hence a 7% discount for member and a 1% rebate for NFDA which will be paid on a quarterly basis.

*This is not applicable to any new vehicle launched for the first 9 months and will exclude short supply hot / exotic vehicles. (These short supply hot / exotic vehicles will be dealt with on a case by case basis.


A preferential price reduction of between R15 000 and R25 000 of the advertised selling price depending on the vehicle (on the pre-owned side all vehicles are priced differently depending on costs, days in stock etc..)



Offering will be cost less 1% in total.

A 1% rebate for NFDA will be paid on a quarterly basis.



A preferential price reduction of between R5 000 and R10 000 of the advertised selling price to the general public depending on the vehicle.


Enquiries and Quote Requests:

Contact Rachel on 083 766 0153 or email rachel.stead@nmidsm.co.za

Please Note:

THIS OFFERING IS EXCLUSIVE TO THE NMI GROUP T/A Garden City Motors / Garden City Commercials

Confessions of a Funeral Director

Last week, a high schooler asked me, “Why are you a funeral director?” After a couple days of thinking about the question, here are ten reasons I’m a funeral director.

One: Service

A couple years ago, a granddaughter was giving her grandmother’s eulogy at the funeral home.  She shared that before she would take naps at her grandmother’s house, her grandmother would warm a blanket in the dryer, and as the granddaughter laid down, the grandma would drape the warm blanket over her.

After the service was over and before the family closed the lid on the casket, I grabbed the blanket that the family had laid in the casket and warmed the blanket.  When I gave the warm blanket to the granddaughter, she couldn’t withhold her tears as now she draped it over her grandmother.

Situations like this arise regularly in the funeral profession.  And, as a caregiver by nature, I find great satisfaction in seeing others have more meaningful death experiences because of my efforts.  I enjoy serving.

Two: Perspective

Emerson said, “When it is darkest men see the stars.”  We try our best to deny the darkness of death; we consciously and unconsciously build our immortality projects, hoping that we can live immortally through them.

And then death.  Weeping.  Our projects come tumbling down.  And it’s in those ashes, in the pain, in the grief, through the tears, we see beauty in the darkness.  This is a perspective that funeral directors are privy to view on a constant basis.  And, in many cases, the darkness can be beautiful.

Three:  Affirmation

Being told, “You’ve made this so much easier for us.” or, “Mom hasn’t looked this beautiful since she first battled cancer”, or “You guys are like family to us” means a lot to me.  It’s important to know that what you’re doing is meaningful for the person you’re doing it for.

That verbal affirmation is a big reason why I continue to serve as a funeral director.

Four: Safe Death Confrontation

When I was a child, I’d lay in bed and imagine myself dying at a young age.  I imagined Death as a Monster.  That fear, though, has dissipated as I’ve both worked around Death and I’ve grown to be comfortable with my own mortality and the mortality of those I love.

Perhaps there’s no greater freedom than to live life with a healthy relationship with Death.  That healthy relationship allows you embracing each moment, realizing that we are not promised tomorrow.  This good relationship with Death has been given to me by the funeral profession.

Five:  Kisses

From old(er) women.  Big sloppy kisses from older women.  And what makes it even better is if they follow up the kiss with a, “If only I was 50 years younger ….”

Six:  Power and Obligation

You give us power every time you open up your family life, your deceased loved one and your grief to us.   And when you give us that power, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with treating that vulnerability with as much honor as we can.

We honor your loved one as we prepare them.  We honor you as we serve you.  The power you give us, and our obligation to that vulnerability is the grounds that produce honor.

Seven: Lack of the Superficial

There’s so much BS in the world.  People pursing bigger cars, bigger houses and bigger salaries, that we become so materialized we can barely stand honesty, vulnerability and spirituality.

That all changes around death.  Suddenly, you wish that the time you spend pursing that raise had been spent with your dad.  Suddenly, you find some honesty about your life, some perspective and maybe even some spirituality.

I hate BS.  I love honesty.  I love spirituality. And I love watching as death helps us become human.

Eight: Informs my Perspective on God

Whether or not funeral directors are religious, you’ll find that almost all are spiritual.  Whether or not they believe in God, death has a way of making us look at the deep, the beyond and the transcendent.

For myself, so much of my faith has been informed by the doubt of death.  I see God in a whole new dark.  And it’s good.  In fact, I’ve come to believe that God dwells with the broken because – it would seem – he too is broken.

Nine:  Constant Challenge

Somebody said, “It’s the perfect job for someone with ADHD because there is constant change.”   Constant change and constant challenge.

Whether a call at 4 AM; or a particularly tragic death; this job is always pushing us and (hopefully) makes us into stronger people.

Ten:  Our Associates

Today, a nurse – on her own free time – tracked down the hospital release for us.  I told her, “You’re wonderful.”  Every time we interact with hospice nurses, I always praise them for their work, for their love towards the family.  When a church provides a funeral luncheon, I try to tell the workers that they are providing grace in the form of food.  When a pastor totally connects with the family, I tell him/her how great a job they’re doing.

When somebody dies – during the hardest moments of life – we see the best in people.  As I said in the beginning, sometimes the darkness is beautiful; and, sometimes the darkness makes us beautiful.

There’s many a burden to be borne in this business; which is why I have to remind myself of the reasons I remain a funeral director.

Caleb Wilde, 2013

SALGA Workshop

The South African Local Government Association hosted a Gauteng State of Cemeteries Workshop on 27 March, which Mike Collinge, Inland chairperson and Ms Marthie Botha attended.

SALGA presented a framework for standard by-laws on cemeteries, crematoria and undertakers and mentioned the following challenges:

  • land availability
  • lack of knowledge among communities to alternative ways of internment
  • environmentally-friendly cemeteries
  • vandalism
  • limited budgets
  • poor maintenance systems

Important information shared is that only 9 out of the 35 cemeteries in Johannesburg are active as the rest are full. There is not a problem with space in Gauteng but with location.

Dr Matthys Dippenaar shared research that is currently being done in South Africa (first time ever) on the risks posed by cemeteries with regard to contamination of water sources such as rivers, wells, and drinking water sources.

How Green are our burial practices?

Question we get from time to time, is “How green are South Africa’s burial practices?” and “How do our burial practices compare to that of other countries?”

In this presentation we try to answer these questions, while also looking at new burial practices including Alkaline Hydrolysis.

Human Remains as Compost for Crops?

A Seattle, USA architect named Katrina Spade has proposed a new solution for urban food production: convert the recently deceased into nutritious compost to feed the food crops.

The project is called the Urban Death Project, and it describes the process of turning dead humans into food as follows:

The Urban Death Project is a compost-based renewal system. At the heart of the project is a three-story core, within which bodies and high-carbon materials are placed. Over the span of a few months, with the help of aerobic decomposition and microbial activity, the bodies decompose fully, leaving a rich compost. The Urban Death Project is not simply a system for turning our bodies into soil-building material. It is also a space for the contemplation of our place in the natural world, and a ritual to help us say goodbye to our loved ones by connecting us with the cycles of nature.

The donate page explains, “Your gift supports the creation of a meaningful, equitable, and ecological alternative for the care and processing of our deceased.”

Yes: in America today, if you buy compost from the big box stores — or even directly from some cities — you are growing your garden vegetables in composted human waste. Lovely…

The Urban Death Project wants to take it one step further. Instead of just composting the feces and sewage from humans, their idea is to compost the entire bodies of the deceased and turn them into nutrients for urban food production.

From an environmental perspective, of course, the idea of composting human bodies into nutrients for plants isn’t as strange as it might sound. In fact, the far more bizarre ritual is pumping dead bodies full of embalming fluids and burying them in overpriced luxury caskets full of synthetic resins and fibers. Embalming fluids are extremely toxic to the planet, and it seems far more respectful to put the body of a deceased person in the ground and let nature run its course.

After all, your body isn’t YOU. The body is just a vessel for the non-material spirit (consciousness) which leaves the body at the moment of physical death. If your time with your physical body is over, then why not return the body to the Earth from which it came in as natural a state as possible?

So from that point of view, at least the intention of the Urban Death Project can’t be faulted. The architect, Katrina Spade, appears to be approaching this from what she sees as a holistic community solution. But she’s so far missing some huge problems with this plan, as I’ll detail below. In fact, the Urban Death Project, if pursued as described on the website, would actually accelerate the death of the very same population it claims to help sustain.

Composting does not eliminate heavy metals and toxic chemicals

To understand the contamination problem with the Urban Death Project, consider this Q&A on the project website:

Q: Is it safe to compost bodies?

ANSWER: Composting creates heat, which kills common viruses and bacteria. Research into mortality composting of livestock has found that the temperature inside the compost reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is high enough to kill off pathogens. Farmers are using mortality composting in order to safely dispose of their dead livestock, as well as to control odor and runoff. The Urban Death Project is fine-tuning this process to be appropriate and meaningful for humans in an urban setting.

The problem with this explanation is that compost heat does not eliminate toxic heavy metals or toxic chemicals. It also doesn’t eliminate prions, the folded proteins associated with Mad Cow Disease.

The average urban dweller’s body, it turns out, is a toxic stew of lead, cadmium, mercury, fluorine, pesticides and other chemicals.

A typical city-dweller living in America today has an atrociously high level of toxic mercury in their teeth. On top of that, they have also bio-accumulated extremely high levels of lead, cadmium, arsenic and other toxic heavy metals which persist during composting. Lead is often bound to calcium in the human skeletal system. As those bones decompose, they release the lead which becomes part of the composted soil. This lead, in turn, is taken up by plant roots and shuttled into the food crops to be eaten by other humans.

Composting human bodies, in other words, would concentrate the toxic heavy metals and chemicals which are already causing a wave of degeneration and disease around the world. In fact, the mass of a modern human body would be considered “environmentally hazardous” by the EPA if it were water. That’s because humans bio-accumulate and concentrate the toxins of modern agriculture, animal feed, toxic medicine and toxic home building materials.

The Urban Death Project advocates precisely the kind of activity which would concentrate these toxic heavy metals to higher and higher levels in the urban food supply:

Loved ones are encouraged to take some compost back to their own yards and gardens. The compost is also used to nourish the site, and city parks use it to fertilize plants and trees. In this way, the dead are folded back into the fabric of the city.

From a scientific point of view, if a society is composting human bodies and human waste back into the food supply, that same society is inadvertently accumulating toxic heavy metals into higher and higher concentrations with each successive death. Over time, this creates an acutely toxic compost system giving rise to an acutely toxic food supply that accelerates disease and death, thereby reinforcing a vicious cycle of poisoning and death.

From: Natural News, 24 March 2015

Embalming Course

The first 8 learners successfully completed the 2-week embalming course held at Thom Kight & Co, Johannesburg. They have received NFDA certificates and will each have a business card with a unique number.

Luvo Titi Titi Funerals, Mthatha We are going to advertise on our website that we offer embalming and this will change the face of funerals.
Chantel Channer Thom Kight & Co, Johannesburg The course was presented very well in that the theory was combined with the practical, so that when I came across a blocked artery, we had a long discussion about it and I could apply the knowledge right away.
Lovemore Nhiwatiwa Collinge & Co, Fourways I see this as the future of the industry. We are prepared now to meet clients’ requests.
Wickus Dreyer Sonja Smith Funeral Home, Centurion I don’t regret attending this course. This will give our company the edge.
Oshir Jadoo Imbali Funeral Furnishers, Durban I learnt very quickly because we could also follow the information in our notes.
Edward Louwrens Olivier Grobbelaars and Church Street Funeral Services, Pretoria I have done a course in Embalming previously and could show the other trainees different techniques. This was a good refresher.
Vishnu Nellathumby Rand Funerals, Benoni The most difficult part is finding and lifting the arteries. Once you have achieved that the rest is easy.
Qaasim Muhammad Mogoai JD Funerals, Johannesburg It was wonderful to open up a body and see how the Creator has put a person together.


Only one space left.

Deadline for bookings and payment 8 April 2015.

Inland Region Golf Day

Planning is underway for the exciting fun day to be held on 23 September at Zwartkops Golf Course.

Tee off at 11:00 for 11:30. Halfway lunch and a supper will be served.

Dale Hayes, who won the World Cup of Golf for South Africa in partnership with Bobby Cole in 1974, will be the MC at the auction.

Since he stopped playing tour golf Hayes has remained involved in the sport in a variety of ways. He has worked as a broadcaster in South Africa and for the Golf Channel, started and edited a golf magazine and helped to found an internet golf shopping business. He is involved in golf course design. Hayes also works as a public speaker and gives golf clinics.

2015 Expo

DATE: 26 – 27 AUGUST 2015


EXHIBITORS: 15 have paid their deposits so far and booked stands. Do you know of anyone who will be interested in exhibiting? Please send us an email.

WORKSHOPS: planned to run consecutively with the exhibition in a separate venue.

REGISTRATIONS: watch your emails for dates to register online

AIDS Treatment Successes Could Revolutionize Funeral Market.

According to the magazine “Money Marketing” of 31 December 2014 AIDS treatment is increasing life expectancy, and therefore the funeral policy market can expect to see the development of new products which could boost South Africa’s gross household savings by as much as 15%.

Life expectancy has risen from a low of 54 years in 2003 to 61 years in 2012. The number of patients receiving ART (antiretroviral treatment) has increased from 50 000 in 2004 to more than 2,3 million in 2013 in South Africa. Researchers from Stellenbosch University and Deloitte believe that there is an opportunity to design products that could encourage policyholders to maintain their payments. Cash-backs on funeral policies could offer opportunities for reinvestment, while surrender values on funeral policies could directly boost the savings of policyholders.

“All things being equal, the new business profitability on our model portfolio of funeral policies could be boosted by as much as 60% under our more aggressive mortality scenarios,” stated Marius Strydom, independent researcher.

At the end of 2013 35 million people were living with HIV globally. An estimated 39 million people have died from AIDS-related causes world-wide. The goals set for the national strategic plan for HIV and AIDS include:

  • reducing new HIV infections by at least 50%
  • initiating at least 80& of eligible patients on antiretroviral treatment, with 70% alive and on treatment five years after initiation.