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Diaspora Death & Body Repatriation
Written by Sarudzayi Barnes/The Patriot   
Monday, 16 April 2012 10:32

WHERE there is life, sadly, there is death as well.  


It is now occurring to many of us in the Diaspora that death is inevitable, and there are two ways of finally returning home, either as unaccompanied corpses (or accompanied to those who are lucky), or when one is still alive and decides to pack bags and say enough is enough, I am returning home.  


Death is unplanned; it takes the sick, the young, the old, and the strong.  


What confronts us in the Diaspora, especially the first generation of immigrants, is that although we live here, emotionally and culturally we do not belong here, and we are still emotionally attached to Zimbabwe.

So when we die, our friends and relatives will be faced with the problems of repatriating our bodies home for a decent burial. This comes with its complications, the most challenging of it being the financial cost of sending the body home, and the cost of running two funerals, one in the Diaspora and another in Zimbabwe.  


It is not shocking then, that after the death of a Zimbabwean (or any immigrant in the Diaspora), friends and relatives literally become beggars, pleading for financial assistance to send the body home.  


In June 2009, the Newzimbabwe.com online newspaper reported that the body of a famous RnB rapper Fortune Muparutsa, who died on October 25 2008, lay unclaimed in a London morgue eight months after his death, as family and relatives were struggling to raise the £2 450 needed to send the body home. Similarly on March 31 2011 a daily newspaper in Zimbabwe ran a story that friends and relatives of Dr Ottillia Chareka, who died in Canada, were running a campaign to raise the US$20 500 needed to send her body home for burial.  


Perhaps the most touching of all was the one published by Zimeye(http://www.zimeye.org/?p=38542) appealing for donations to raise money to send the body of Josaya Chipinda to Zimbabwe, who died in the UK on October 20 2011. 


“I am begging you my friends, family, and friends of Zimbabwe to find in your heart to help raise £2 600 for Josaya Chipinda’s body to be repatriated to Zimbabwe. Zim Artists, Orgs, media, we need you...”


In November 2010 the family of former actor for Studio 263, Muwengwa, were running a campaign to raise R20 000 needed to send his body home from South Africa where he died!


The list of Zimbabweans who die in the Diaspora is endless. Some die in neighbouring African countries, and others as far afield as New Zealand, Australia, the USA and Europe.  


Of late I hear there are many Zimbabweans now domicile in the Polar countries! Yet to most of us our final resting place is Zimbabwe. 


As I write this article, I am not sure if the family of Jasper Taruvinga, who committed suicide in Higam, UK, in February this year, has now finally managed to raise money to send his body home. 


The main costs that the Diasporas face in the event of death include; body repatriation, flight costs for people (family or friends) to accompany the body back to motherland, Zimbabwe, cost of coffin or casket, funeral costs in UK, freight costs for shipping personal effects of the deceased and in many cases some Diasporas have to meet the funeral costs back home in Zimbabwe.


I spoke to Jeff Madzingo, the CEO of Newzimbabwe.com, who recently lost a brother in the UK and had to repatriate his body to Zimbabwe for burial. 


He agreed to share his experiences with readers and Diasporans so that we learn something from his experiences, as he encourages us to take up a new funeral cover that will now be available to Diasporans worldwide from April 10; the Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan (www.diapsporafuneralcashplan.com).  


Jeff shares with us his experience below;


“To lose your loved one through death is a very traumatic experience. In the Diaspora the level of trauma is unexplainable. When you lose a loved one in the Diaspora, you suddenly realise that you have to mourn for your loved one and still manage all the processes to ensure that your loved one is repatriated for a dignified burial in Zimbabwe. You realise that where you would be treated as a ‘child’ in Zimbabwe, where all the decisions are made by older relatives, in the Diaspora you suddenly have to face death head-on and be the ultimate decision-maker. In the midst of your bereavement and running around to sort out relevant documents, you have to provide time for people who come to express their condolences. You are also confronted with the issue of having to keep the family in Zimbabwe up to date with all what is happening here.”


In addition to the huge financial burden of trying to repatriate the deceased, in many cases family/friends in the Diaspora are confronted with the nightmare of what to do with the personal effects of the deceased.  


There is an extra financial bill to send the personal belongings home so that family members can complete traditional processes such as ‘chivanhu chekugova nhumbi dzomufi’. One cannot take them to a charity shop. It is un-Zimbabwean. 


In our African culture, there is always communal existence where people give each other moral, emotional and material support. 


In the Diaspora most bereaved families are caught in situations whereby they suddenly realise that what they need is financial support more than moral or emotional support.  The situation is made worse by the fact that many people, who die here do not have any life or whole of life policies, and even if they did, there is no way one can get a cash payment quick enough to cover funeral expenses. 



Jeff Madzingo accompanied his brother’s body to Zimbabwe and he says it was very painful and emotionally draining. 


“You will probably be the only sad passenger in the whole plane as others will be travelling with their families or travelling on holiday or to visit their families. You will be the only one knowing that you are travelling with your loved one; only that they will be sadly in the cargo, he said. The situation is worsened by the fact that the whole trip takes close to 24 hours because there is no direct flight. I left the UK for Zimbabwe via South Africa at 9pm on Friday and arrived in Zimbabwe at 10pm the following day, Saturday. At the airport you are greeted by the whole family crying, while others are hugging and embracing. Everyone wants to hear from you kuti zvakafamba sei. You have to go through the emotional trauma of re-living the whole ordeal... I am not complaining. I simply want others to learn from my experiences and prepare,” says Jeff.


He believes the way forward is for people to take insurance policies that will cover costs of their deaths, and deaths of immediate family members, including those in Zimbabwe. 


The Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan.com is one of the best ways forward, and it will be launched on April 10 2012 and will be available to all Zimbabwean Diasporas worldwide. 


The funeral cash plan is underwritten by Zimnat Life Assurance Company. Barbara Nyagomo of Manchester helped to fundraise for bodies to be sent to Zimbabwe. 


“I spearheaded burial money collection for Fortune Mparutsa together with Arthur Gwagwa, while other Zimbabweans were rebuking us that we must leave the dead alone. Recently I was involved in fundraising money to repatriate Josaya Chipinda’s body, and Mrs Chareka. When my brother died in 2010 nobody was there to support me. I only got £20 for chema. It was really hard coping with funeral expenses at home while abroad...” she said. 


Barbara strongly thinks that people in the Diaspora should revisit the likelihood of dying here and make plans for their funerals, which can include joining burial societies.  


The best way to send off your loved ones is to celebrate their lives. Funerals should not turn into public begging. 


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