Death challenges within Zambian Diaspora communities- Stop the “GoFund me” practice.
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. Each one of us has, at some time, had to grapple with the challenges resulting from the death of a loved one. No matter how many times we have gone through these traumatic experiences, each time the experience appears and feels like new and, often times, even more intense. Being in the diaspora, the issues about how to finance the burial or repatriation of a loved one are normally characterisedby financial challenges and contestations amongst those left behind.
Having lived in the diaspora for the past sixteen years,it has become quite common to receive WhatsApp, text or Facebook messages asking for financial assistance to repatriate a fellow African. Some of these departed Africanbrothers and sisters would not have built strong enough relationships which would, in such instances, donate funds to build a benevolent fund to finance the funeral. For those who would have belonged to church congregations or other community groups, one way or another, after repeated calls, their remains have finally been freighted back home. The delay in raising funds has often times caused so much anxieties to relatives at home and by the time the burial is conducted that feeling of loss is likely to have changed to relief that,at least, the waiting is over.
Stories to explain the failure to finance repatriation of deceased ones have always been accompanied by ,at times,concocted lies about the deceased`s past life. Failure to be organised, over working and not saving for a rainy day, reckless living, overindulging in First World glamour are but a few explanations often advanced both within the diaspora community and those at home.
Churches, associations and in some cases family groups have formed burial societies to respond to these challenges. Founding members of burial societies, normally become the fund administrators. They tend to work relatively well as long as those founding members are still alive and active in the administration of the societies.
However, it appears like once leadership changes the original modus operandi changes. After yearsof consistentcontributions, the societies’ funds would normally have grown to quite attractive sums so much that some temptations to invest as way to grow the fund becomes quite tempting. Unfortunately, investments by their nature can be affected by unforeseen turbulent economic activities ending up with loss of capital invested. Such loses are known to reduce group cohesion and blame appropriation erodes all the trust, leading to dissolution of the group. Available funds get share amongst the surviving members who then spend the money on other more immediate needs conveniently forgetting what the money had been saved for.
Whilst all this financing drama is going on another parallel scene will, at times, be also playing out. This drama will be around the disbursement of the contents of the deceased
s estate. This can take different shapes. Contestations are quite normal where a husband dies leaving a wife and children. The late deceased husbands family might attempt to wrestle a bigger chunk of the estate without any regard to the surviving family who, in most cases will have lost their main bread winner. However, it appears though, in the diaspora, most women are the main bread winners. Having said that, where the wife dies, there is normally very little contestation about the estate.The survivinghusband can always have the stamina to challenge any moves by the in laws to the estate.
Another phenomenon is where a man and woman have been living as unmarried partners and yet for all intentsand purposeslived like husband and wife building a joint estate. A death in such situations always leads to fights as the deceased`s family tries to gain control of their fair share in the joint estate.
With all these scenarios, one wonders whether it is not about time we,the diasporans’, become more organised and plannedtheir estates better. There are funeral plans available to finance repatriation and meet other incidental expenses like shipping the deceased`s property back home , buy tickets for family members to accompany the body back home, feed mourners both in the diaspora and in Zambiaand finance any other administrative expenses resulting from the death. At times the financial strains and controversies end up with deceased literary being thrown into a pit rather than being given a decent burial.
Diasporans are renowned for working so hard. Is it not only fair that we insure ourselves against untimely death and make the aftermath of our death more peaceful by writing a comprehensive Will? Let us not leave our lives to chance. We deserve a better send off and the assurance that our accumulated wealth is inherited by our deserving loved ones. Let us move away from the “GoFundMe” practice and be more organised.
Jeff Sango is aCitizensUK trained Community Organiser and an Adviser with the DiasporaFuneralCashPlan.com which is underwritten by Madison Life Insurance Company Zambia Ltd (MLife). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org