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South Africa’s high funeral costs unsettle Churches, Financial institutions

By Crystal van Wyk
Posted on Friday, 4 May 2012 09:11

Worried about the spending habits of spendthrift South Africans, churches and the Financial Services Board (FSB) have partnered on a scheme to try and promote a culture of saving.

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) and the FSB are particularly worried at the manner in which black South Africans spend at funerals and weddings.

Some funerals, the FSB said, cost up to R100 000, money which could be put to better use.

“Why do we continue to put costly caskets underground when we have kids dropping out of school because they can’t afford to study?” SACC general secretary, Reverend Mautji Pataki, said.

The FSB on the other hand encouraged frugality. “Why don’t we take that money and use it as a memorial by starting a bursary/scholarship fund for such students?” FSB asked, in a statement.

The two have joined hands to campaign against lavish and extravagant spending. And the group is clear about financial literacy being key.

Also read: Now he’s dead and I am having a bubble bath

The FSB and the SACC say extravagant spending boils down to a simple lack of consumer education.

FSB executive officer, Dube Tshidi said they have been trying for many years to educate people around money.

The FSB said it was now teaming up with the council so that the two bodies could appeal to people from a spiritual perspective. Tshidi said, “as a country we have to work together on this”.

The council said, “while educating consumers about good financial stewardship, they shall also lobby and advocate for good ethical practises within the financial institutions, calling them to promote and reaffirm the positive and ethical values”.

They also want people to uphold the culture of honesty, truth-telling when marketing their products, urging them to adhere to moral integrity when conducting their business and showing compassion to their clients.

SACC will now use its wide network of churches around the country to preach the savings gospel from the pulpit.

Also read: Funerals and weddings under the microscope in Uganda

A pilot project to change the way people relate to money will be rolled out in Gauteng first before extending it to other regions.

The FSB said it would also conduct “train-the-trainer” workshops for the SACC and its members, with the hope that they would take the message to their communities.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, South Africa might seem an extreme case, but its elaborate ceremonies — and their price tags — are closer to the rule than the exception.

In a 2004 study in the Journal of Human Development, nearly two thirds of households that fell into poverty in Kenya cited high burial costs as a reason.

Peruvians and Indians who slipped below the poverty line also cited funerals as a contributing factor. Even in the “rich” world, 6 million Britons worry about funeral costs, another study found in June.

Also read: Country Profile – SOUTH AFRICA

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