By Dimakatso Modipa

As the country wrestles with intense rolling load-shedding, a number of businesses are severely affected.
For funeral parlours, it is a hauntingly scary nightmare. This is on account that their primary job is to meticulously preserve bodies in good condition until the day of the funeral. It is becoming costly and almost impossible for them to function optimally as a result of the rolling blackouts.
In an interview with Drum, Morongwa Molefe, secretary general of the Funeral Industry Practitioners, said: “Some funeral parlours have generators and others don’t.
“It depends on how big the parlour. Some are just starting out and have not generated enough income yet to be able to make such purchases.
“Generally, our fridges can keep the temperature cold between six to seven hours. But the on and off every four hours or so is damaging,” Molefe said.
“Our business is so badly affected that smaller parlours that do not have generators have to ask others if they have power or generators and often have to drive across town to make sure the bodies are kept cold.
Because sometimes the power will go off from the early hours of the morning, only to be back on at 9am then at 10am or 11am its off again for another four hours.”
Molefe further told Drum they are averse to taking the risk of leaving corpses in fridges and hope that electricity will return when the schedule indicates it will be back “because sometimes municipalities always switch the power off for repairs, in addition to Eskom’s load-shedding”.
“The reality is that although customers know the country is experiencing load-shedding, they are not going to understand when we give them decomposing bodies that smell or have maggots and blame that on load-shedding.
“We have to come up with whatever alternatives in order to make sure the bodies are kept in the right conditions. This is really affecting our business badly. We are truly heading for disaster if we continue on this path.”
Funeral undertakers in Mamelodi, east of Tshwane, are gatvol with load-shedding and have demanded government to exempt their businesses from load-shedding.
The Telegram spoke to a number of funeral homes including a sales manager at Phokwane funeral directors, Mokgethi Mphego, who said their businesses have been running without problems since 2006, and the latest blackouts have increased their expenses.
“I’m so disappointed in our government because it has been years since they promised to solve the load-shedding issue but even today they fail to come up with a solution,” said Mphego.
He added that load-shedding was affecting them immensely as they work with corpses all the time and if they (corpses) are not exposed to cold temperature they rot, which leads to a bad smell and this has a damaging impact on the business.
“We spend around R720 on fuel and it last for two days,” said Mphego.
He said they spend money on petrol and must service the generators as well. This is their second generator, the first one was damaged and they had to buy new one, which cost them R15 000.
“I’m pleading with government to exclude undertakers from load-shedding,” said Mphego.
Dimakatso Selota of Mohlabane Burials Services from Mamelodi west, said as a woman who runs a business it is not safe for her to travel to her business at night once the lights go off.
“I have to wake up at night when lights go off to go to my place of business to switch on the generator, because I can’t have corpses in a hot room – they will start to smell.
Selota said since the latest spate of load-shedding she has already had her fridges fixed twice already at a cost of around R30 000.
“Sadly, no one will refund me my money,” said a dejected Selota.
“Our government procured our services during the Covid-19 pandemic but right now it feels as if they no longer care about us. It hurts me more to know that all the money I’m spending I won’t get back but I keep spending due to load-shedding.”
Selota said she bought a big generator for R45 000 and also spends a lot of money on petrol to keep it running. She told The Telegram she spends on average R1 000 on petrol which lasts only for two days.
Owner of Matome Molefe Funeral Services Maggie Molefe said: “Load-shedding is taking bread from our mouths and this needs to stop. Government must exempt us from load-shedding.”
She said paying her workers their full salary is becoming a challenge.
“A big chunk of our expenses now goes into running the generator.”
The costs are not limited to servicing the generators.
According to the Drum report, Morongwa said the state of affairs has become so bad that they have resorted to embalming bodies at a cost of more than R700 per body.
“We usually have bodies embalmed if they have to travel long distances to neighbouring countries and charge that to the customer and they understand,” Maggie explained.
“Now, we have to embalm even the local corpses because it helps to maintain the cold. But we cannot charge that to the customer. This load-shedding is draining us financially because it is the parlour’s duty to keep the bodies in good condition and we need to do whatever it takes to do that.”

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