The Common Good

Zimbabwe's 'Burial Societies'

In African culture death is accepted as an inevitable aspect of life and a promotion to the spiritual level where one becomes an ancestor whose duty is to protect and intercede for one's living family before God.

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The concern for one's funeral and ensuring that expenses are paid has led to the formation of "burial societies" all over the continent. Burial societies are owned and run by members, and their purpose is to ensure that upon the death of one of their members, all funeral expenses are paid for such as coffin, transportation, and meals. Even commercial banks have jumped on the bandwagon and provide funeral plans for a monthly fee.

Since concern for one's funeral is one of the chief concerns for many Zimbabweans living in South Africa, Zimbabwean owned and run burial societies have emerged to cater to their unique needs. Burial societies also provide avenues for community and support as members meet regularly, usually once a month, and at the end of the year most hold a party where they socialize and strengthen their relationships. Some burial societies even have their own uniforms for their members to distinguish them from other societies and to give them a sense of belonging. This is an example of how Zimbabweans creatively survive and attend to important issues in their lives in the midst of extremely trying times.

The political struggle for power continues and will be a feature of the politics of the unity government as each wants to assert their authority. Our hope is in the many women and men on both sides who want to work for a better Zimbabwe.

Nontando HadebeNontando Hadebe, a former Sojourners intern, is originally from Zimbabwe and is now pursuing graduate studies in theology in South Africa.

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