The Last Mile
When Kagiso Ramphela (above) started Ramphela Funerals, a funeral parlor, just before Covid-19 struck South Africa, he never anticipated what was in store. Deemed essential services during the pandemic, his business, in a bizarre twist of fate, picked up. “I don’t want to say business is booming because it sounds like I am saying for business to boom, people must die. But what I will say is I think things have been fair to us,” Ramphela says, scratching his head, when we meet him at his office in Soweto, Johannesburg. In this business, he always expects the unexpected, and this could mean calls in the middle of the night, from harried relatives requesting caskets for their loved ones. Ramphela needs to also ensure his staff is protected and safe from the virus at all times, whilst providing support to grieving families.
Coping With Loss
“There’s no closure,” says Charlie Mpogeng standing by his brother's grave at Westpark Cemetery in Emmarentia, west of Johannesburg. On the morning of July 17, he lost his 37-year-old brother, Herman Motlhabane, to Covid-19. “Everyone loved and respected him,” remembers Mpogeng. “We were dressed in PPE gear to go see his body at the funeral home. We had to come out, take off the PPE, and get sanitized. And then immediately I had to get on to a call with the undertaker. There was no time to sit down and be like, ‘oh, snap I just lost my brother’.” At the funeral, those in attendance had to observe social distancing and the ceremony only lasted a little over an hour. This is a familiar story for most who have lost a loved one to the pandemic this year. As of mid-November, South Africa recorded over 20,000 Covidrelated deaths.
A Brake On Business
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