How much does South Africa spend on VIP funerals?

Provincial governments can rest in peace – they have been allocated a total of R30-million to bury qualifying VIPs for the next 12 months.

If the nine provinces budget smartly and stick to a maximum of R1-million per state funeral, they will collectively be able to cover the cost of at least 29 burials. That would pretty much match the R1-million price tag put on the annual Cabinet lekgotla in January and February this year. That tender was awarded to Be-Sure Events, a company tasked with providing the marquees, air conditioning, audio­visual equipment, linen and flowers.

The department of public works, which released details of the latest funeral budgets on its website, did not respond to questions about the number of such funerals paid for during 2014-2015, so it is unclear whether there is a limit on how much can be spent on such events.

But its site does state that each province has been given slightly more than R3.2-million for official or state funerals.

Splurge, and it’s all gone
On the other hand, if the cost of the official funeral of murdered Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa is anything to go by, it will cover just one funeral.

The KwaZulu-Natal government previously confirmed having spent R3-million on the funeral of Meyiwa, a national hero.

If the national austerity guidelines are followed, as per directives from the treasury, the provinces could limit the cost of such funerals to R500 000 each. In that way, they would be able to fund a total of 58 funerals, or even 116 if they scaled down the costs to a modest R250 000 per event.

The budget is likely to cover the bulk of the cost of the three categories of funerals – state, official and provincial. These are reserved for, among others, the head of state and former presidents, serving ministers, the chief justice and premiers, as wells as “distinguished persons” as approved by the president.

Among the more recent official funerals held are those for former Cabinet minister Collins Chabane and his two bodyguards, who were killed in a car crash in March, and Olympic athlete Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, who died in a car crash in 2014.

North West, the only province to respond to questions from the Mail & Guardian, said it did not have any official funerals between January 2014 and January 2015.

Brian Setswambung, the acting head of communication in the office of the North West premier, said: “We only had reburials of the remains of JB Marks and Moses Kotane, which emanated from the national government.”

President Jacob Zuma declared special official funerals for the two anti-apartheid stalwarts, who both died in Russia.

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Jessica Bezuidenhout
Jessica Bezuidenhout joined the Mail & Guardian as an investigative reporter in March 2016 after 20 years at the Sunday Times working on news and investigations. She has been the joint winner of several local and international journalism awards, including Nat Nakasa, Mondi, Vodacom regional journalist of the year and Misa, and runner-up for the 2003 Natali Prize.

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