Botswana: Malikongwas Pioneer Virtual Funerals

To live-stream a funeral on social media may seem a little bit strange looking from a setswana cultural perspective, but the idea could be a doable option during these era of extreme social distancing when people are restricted to pay their last respect to dead relatives.

In fact families in oversea countries are already streaming funerals live on Facebook and Instagram to cater for those who could not attend the actual ceremony due to COVID-19 restrictions. The pandemic has changed the way families mourn the loss of their loved ones, as according to lockdown regulations not more than 50 people are allowed to attend a funeral. To ensure continued safety of mourners funerals should also be brief and not last for more than 2 hours.

As an advice from those who have already done it and seen how helpful it was, families who are going through bereavement could also turn to social media to allow for more people to attend their funeral proceedings online. In Botswana the Malikongwa family of Marapong Village last week defied the corona-virus pandemic when they pioneered virtual funerals in the country by streaming-live on Facebook the funeral proceedings of their late mother, Florence Vinga Malikongwa. The 83 years old retired public health nursing practitioner popularly known as one of the pioneers of the public health system in Botswana was laid to rest on April 17th at Tsholofelo East Cemetery in Gaborone.

Her son, Richard Malikongwa, an Executive Director at Institute of Development Management (IDM) who is passionate about the use of new technologies in everyday life said they decided to stream the funeral live on Facebook to allow family members, friends and colleagues who could not come to comfort them during the time of mourning to at least join proceedings of the funeral.

Malikongwa himself is very passionate about the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and feels that technology makes life much more easier. The IDM boss is known to be believing that the world would be closer to humanity if the 4IR, Artificial Intelligence and the internet of things are all embraced.

"We are a very big family so to say only 50 people can attend our funeral was like a drop in the ocean, but the live-streaming thing did help because a lot of people managed to connect and mourn with us online," Malikongwa told The Patriot Lifestyle in an interview.

Because of the prescribed restrictions Malikongwa says only close family members and friends of the deceased were listed to attend the actual event."We understand the situation we are going through as a country so we had to adhere to the set regulations. We could not accommodate everybody but fortunately people understood the reasons," he indicated.

According to him, other relatives from as far as Francistown, Marapong, Borolong and even in Gaborone were able to connect with them through Facebook. He added that even people who grew up and worked with the deceased were also able to watch the entire ceremony online.

The rest of the Roman Catholic Church congregation that was giving spiritual support to the family also managed to participate through the same platform. A few number of them comprising of pastors and the choir could only attend. "... and fortunately our family is also catholic so we managed to boost the choir in terms singing," Malikongwa indicated. Watching online the choir gave the funeral some live with their comforting songs such that it was not a dull often depressing occasion.

Malikongwa appreciated that the digital platform was helpful and even comforting. The 2 hours long live-stream event attracted a viewership of over two thousand people. Close to 300 people send their message of condolences through the same digital platform. From the comments one could tell that indeed people formed part of the funeral despite having to watch the stream from the comfort of their homes.

Malikongwa's colleague Grace Mosinyi also waxes lyrical when she talks about how the virtual funeral was a brilliant concept, which she commends to have been executed beautifully. "It was an emotional session. I was part of the proceedings from the beginning to the end. I do not feel like I missed anything. The family had really adjusted to the arrangement, something which shows that nothing can stop people from embracing new technologies," Mosinyi said. =

"Another interesting observation was that less than 50 people who were in attendance observed social distancing. The seats were arranged in a manner to carter for that and the small crowd kept a good distance between themselves," she further commended.

Mosinyi encouraged that as much as nobody likes this corona thing, those who can afford to use technology should go ahead and do so.

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