A growing number of Zimbabweans living across the border are choosing to return home when they are critically ill, despite the lack of medical care they can receive there, just to escape the exorbitant costs of dying in South Africa.
A new report by the South African Mail & Guardian newspaper has revealed the extreme costs facing Zimbabwean families when a loved one in South Africa passes away. The report said that the costs of repatriating a body back home can be anywhere between R10,000 to R20,000.
The report says that as a result of the large number of Zimbabweans now permanently living in South Africa, a growing number of Zimbabwean-based funeral parlours have opened branches in South Africa "to tap into the emerging market."
"Falakhe Funeral Parlour and Kings and Queens Real Funeral Services are both headquartered in Bulawayo. They have been operating satellite offices in Johannesburg for the past three years to cater for their Zimbabwean clients," the report states.
But with the repatriation costs still far more than what most Zimbabweans can afford, the reality is that many families are either left in debt, or choosing to send their loved ones home to die.
Diana Zimbundzana from the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum in Johannesburg told SW Radio Africa that "more people are now opting to go home, rather than leaving their families with the costs."
"It is a situation where people are in a quagmire, but what can they do?" Zimbudzana said.
She explained that some Zimbabweans are choosing cremation as an alternative to repatriation, but the costs are still an estimated R3,000.
"Unless a person is popular and people donate money, families are left with very large costs," Zimbudzana said.
She explained that many Zimbabweans in South Africa are now starting funeral societies, which people pay monthly fee towards. But she added that these initiatives are still too new to help the many people faced with repatriation costs.