Have you ever wondered what will happen to your body when you die if you cannot afford a funeral?

Everyone would like to have a decent and dignified funeral when they leave this world. But what if you die all alone, poor and with no funeral policy? Who is going to give you that send off?

The answer is the state.

According to Mabore Sefara, communication specialist at Avbob, burials for destitute people are the responsibility of the local municipality. If you die within the municipal area or in a state property such as a hospital, school or prison and no one has offered to carry the costs of your funeral, the municipality will bury you.

Municipalities sometimes distinguish between a pauper and a destitute funeral.  A pauper is described as someone whose relatives are unknown while a destitute is someone whose relatives cannot afford the costs of the funeral.

Sefara says municipalities contract a local funeral service provider to conduct funerals for the destitute people and bear the cost thereof.

The cost of a burial for destitute people varies between R3 500 and R6 000, depending on the agreement with the local council.

According to the City of Cape Town, the municipality will be responsible for the transportation of the body to and from the morgue, grave and coffin.

The grave that is allocated to you might not be in the community where you stayed, says Sefara.

The City of Cape Town says when your family applies for a destitute burial, they cannot be selective about the service. This means they cannot offer to buy the coffin or for a private grave and let the municipality pay for the rest.

According to Sefara, the maximum number of people that can attend the service will be determined by the council. This differs from a pauper burial where nobody attends as the person is not known to anyone.

According to Ernest Aylward, financial officer at Alijac Funeral Services, there are different processes when applying for the two funerals. He says with the pauper’s, the South African Police Services (SAPS) must apply for the funeral, whereas with a destitute funeral, the family should submit the application.

Aylward says the funeral can only take place during the week. The council do not allow the funerals to take place on a public holiday or on a weekend.

The City of Cape Town says that the city doesn’t allow families to do memorial work on the grave.

To apply for the destitute burial, your family must submit the following documents to the municipal offices.

  • A certified copy of your death certificate
  • Your identity document (ID)
  • A certified copy of your family member’s ID

This article has been prepared for information purposes only and it does not constitute legal, financial, or medical advice. The publication, journalist, and companies or individuals providing commentary cannot be held liable in any way. Readers are advised to seek legal, financial, or medical advice where appropriate.