Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
While some people are illegally crossing borders or absconding mandatory quarantine to be with their loved ones, 14 Zimbabweans based in South Africa chose to “attend” their father’s burial online due to travel bans imposed by both countries as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While Zimbabweans are allowed to return home, upon arrival here they are subjected to a mandatory 21-day quarantine period and tested for Covid-19 before being cleared.
Attending a funeral is literally impossible as funeral parlours now insist on conducting burials in as little as two days.
This, however, did not stop the children of Gilbert Guduza Moyo (73) of Gwambe Village in Bulilima District, Matabeleland South Province, from attending his funeral.
Moyo, who died on Friday last week and was buried on Sunday, had 15 children and 14 of them are based in South Africa.
His death occurred at a time when the world is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, with both Zimbabwe and South Africa imposing travel restrictions in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19.
South Africa has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the continent at 40 792 including 848 deaths while Zimbabwe as of Thursday had 237 confirmed cases including four deaths.
Most recorded cases in Zimbabwe are that of Zimbabwean citizens returning from South Africa. Following Moyo’s death, his children in South Africa were left in a serious dilemma over how they could pay their last respects, considering the lockdown in both countries.
Traditionally, burial proceedings are halted until all close relatives arrive. But due to Covid-19 and the restrictions that have emerged as a result of the virus, Moyo’s 14 children with the help of relatives and friends opted for a virtual platform to be part of the burial proceedings.
The family quickly downloaded the ZOOM application that allows for video communication for the 14 children to be able to be virtually in Gwambe, for the burial proceedings on Sunday.
Chronicle yesterday caught up with Moyo’s eldest son Mr Descent Moyo, who narrated how attending the burial virtually became a source of closure for them. He said all the children converged in the same house in South Africa to mourn and bury their father.
Mr Moyo said they followed and participated the burial programme from 7AM to 11AM. “My father had 15 children and 14 of us are based in South Africa meaning we could not come for the burial. We had accepted that we would only see his burial through a recorded video later. But as burial preparations started, I received a phone call from a neighbour of ours who proposed that we can try using online platform to participate in the burial proceedings. He told me of the ZOOM platform, stating that he would be on the ground recording the programme which we could also participate in,” said Mr Moyo.
He said accounts were set up, allowing them to participate in the burial process. “Attending the online burial helped us a lot as we all got closure that we all needed. My sisters cried a lot and that crying helped them ukuthi babhodle (much needed closure) as you know women mourn differently from us men. We participated in the burial listening to what was happening on the ground while we also made our contributions. At the end of the proceedings we felt the closure that we needed as we were part and parcel of the burial programme although at a distant,” he said.
Mr Moyo said although they could not practice cultural rituals that come with a burial, he believes it was for a worthy cause in light of Covid-19 pandemic. He said while some people have opted to crossing borders illegally to attend events such as burials during this period, they considered public health regulations.
“Laws have to be followed. Some people might have skipped the border just to attend the burial but what if they had contracted the virus on their way home. Is it worth it to expose more than 50 people to Covid-19 while intending to bury one person in an event that can even take one hour? It’s better not to attend a burial following the death of one person as opposed to violating the regulations attending a burial and exposing your whole clan and the community to the deadly pandemic,” he said.
Mr Moyo urged the public to observe laid down regulations while taking advantage of the online platforms to attending to societal and family obligations. He said while they might have skipped traditional practices that come with burial processes, they are confident this can be done in the future.
Mr Mkhululi Ncube, a Zimpapers employee, who assisted the family in setting up the ZOOM platform, said he had seen the online application used in a professional environment, especially during Covid-19 and proposed the idea to family who took it up. “As communities are grappling with Covid-19 pandemic, we need to think in other terms to protect each other from this virus. It was a very emotional experience, not just for them but even myself as we tried to ensure that they get a bit of some closure. As a neighbour I could not imagine the pain of losing their father and secondly failing to attend his burial. Hence, in the spirit of ubuntu I used my expertise to propose the idea to the family and I’m happy that they accepted it,” said Mr Ncube. — @nqotshili