Guarantee Yourself a
Dignified Send-Off

Diaspora Death & Body Repatriation Challenges
Written by Jeff Sango
Wednesday 20 July 2016 16:18

THE speed with which one’s remains are repatriated back home depends on several factors. The availability of funds and knowledge of the repatriation process are important. In this article I shall attempt to share some of the “must know” details to facilitate a quick repatriation for our loved ones from the UK. I hope this article will find traction with colleagues in other diaspora host countries to share their own experience.

We all came into the diaspora at different times and for different reasons. As transnational citizens, we continue to travel forwards and backwards from the host country to Zimbabwe. As long as we are alive, that movement will continue to be determined by our immigration status in the host country and our ability to finance the airfares. In case of death the decision for our final resting place will be made by others and the main determinant becomes the ability to finance the burial process. Of course, it is pointless to leave a Will stating that we need to be buried in Zimbabwe without leaving the funding. Savings or liquidity provided by funeral cash plans like the Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan becomes very handy. Helpers tend to be many when there is money to fund the process otherwise many will rather restrict themselves to pouring condolences on Facebook.

In the United Kingdom, C J Riley Funeral Services are the most popular service providers for repatriating deceased Zimbabweans. From my own experience and others who have used their services, they have always provided excellent service. C J Reilly have been the accredited repatriation partners for Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan from inception nearly five years ago.

On receiving an enquiry about repatriation, C J Riley will ask for the relatives to work with the Coroner to obtain a death certificate. They will also ask for the deceased`s valid passport.  At this stage a copy will normally suffice. If the passport has expired then the relatives have to organise a travel document through the Zimbabwe Embassy. Armed with the notice of death and travel documents, the undertaker will proceed to organise a certificate to take the deceased out of the UK; and the certificate from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Zimbabwe allows the body to get into the country. This process, according to C J Reilly, takes up to 4 working days. Thus, it is important to make sure that we all have a valid passport at all times and equally important, that it is accessible. Keeping a file with all important documents like insurance policies and Identification documents is a good practice.

C J Reilley will normally take the deceased`s body from the hospital mortuary and keep it in their parlour whilst they make removal arrangements.

Our custom requires that the deceased`s clothes are also brought to Zimbabwe so as to be dispersed after the burial. Relatives and friends have to make separate arrangements for freight of these goods. The deceased is treated as cargo and is not accompanied by any luggage. Equally, relatives and friends also have to make separate arrangements for travel. It might also be better to travel earlier than the deceased so that they are there to receive the remains at Harare airport.

Cost of undertaking services in UK

C J Riley currently charges £2 650 for services up to Harare airport. It is up to the relatives and friends to arrange for a local undertaker to take over the service once the body arrives at Harare airport. Again, the need for funds comes into play. Provision for these funds cannot be left to those assisting with our funeral. We need to leave a legacy not debts and a bad taste in people’s mouths. People always remember the last thing. How many times have we heard “Oh you mean that useless chap whose burial was shambolic and left nothing for his family”. The fact that one once drove a Mercedes Benz or lived in a big house or was a former CEO is quickly lost to the new unfavourable descriptions.

Memorial Service

Oftentimes, the relatives and friends will want to have a church service to remember the deceased. This also provides an opportunity for body viewing for those who would not be travelling to Zimbabwe.  C J Riley has a small chapel which can accommodate, at most, 15 people. This is available as part of the free service to their customers. Some, like myself, have enquired whether it would be alright to allow more people into the small chapel in turns but keeping the number at 15 all the times. C J Riley claims that they have encountered challenges with this arrangement. They share the outside pavements with other businesses who have previously complained about people blocking their entrances. Funds allowing, a service and body viewing away from C J Riley could be an option.

A service away from C J Riley comes with some costs. A nearby Methodist church, with a capacity for 100 people, charges £240 per hour. C J Riley charges £250 per hour to hire out their hearse and staff. Venues far from their Parlour attract hire charges.

Burial in Zimbabwe

Today`s burials are a proper celebrations of life. Many Zimbabweans, back home, have funeral policies. The policies come as a package. Such packages would include a casket, a bus service, a video and food. The assumption is that such provisions are a given for someone dying in the diaspora. However, this is not always the case. This will depend on whether the deceased had a diaspora funeral policy or had enough savings or was a member of an employer`s benevolent fund. Some diaspora communities, like churches, will have contributed enough money to see the whole funeral process through. Of course these are all assumptions. Burial societies have been known to struggle after the passing on of the founders. Most burial societies or funeral groups which existed at the turn of the century have since folded up. Scandals and loss of capital due to wrong investment decisions have left scars and destroyed relationships. Anyone hoping for a decent burial must plan for it by using reputable and credible institutions with strong asset bases. The Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan, which is a guaranteed acceptance policy and permanently denominated as a US$ cash policy, provides a definite source of cash within 24hours of receiving notice of death. The Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan is underwritten by Zimnat Life which is partly owned by Masawara Ltd which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and also by Sanlam Life which, as per 2014 balance sheet, was worth $152 billion.

Burial in the UK

According to C J Reilley, at least 2 deceased Zimbabweans are repatriated home every week. It must be borne in mind that there are other undertakers also involved in repatriating deceased Zimbabweans back home. Thus, figures from C J Reilly should just be used as a guide of the scale of the challenge facing the community. In a few cases, Zimbabweans have been buried in the UK. Unless it becomes a pauper`s burial the need for cash is always topping the burial agenda.


I write this piece as a concerned Zimbabwean. I have worked as a community organiser in the Zimbabwean community and now as a Global Sales Advisor for the Zimnat Diaspora Funeral Cash plan. Stories abound when friends and relatives have died. Going through the funeral process has been like groping in darkness. I trust that my fellow countrymen and women will find this as a wakeup call to plan their lives as if they were going to die tomorrow. That possibility is real. We cannot continue to shy away from talking about what is a given. We are going to die. Let us make it easy for those likely to survive us. Let us not live a lie, living like kings only to be buried like paupers, worse still, leave a trail of poverty. Death knows no station in life.

This article was taken from Jeff Sango is a Global Sales Advisor with Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan, which is available to all Zimbabweans and Zambians worldwide including those back home. .