7 things you might not know about state-funded funerals

By Drum Digital
17 August 2016

The Presidency has revised its policy on state-funded funerals to clearly stipulate, creating clearer rules for how and when this honour is awarded.

Presidential spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga says Government decided to revise the policy because they were concerned that, whenever there was a state-funded funeral, the public are always uncertain about how the process works.

“We want to clarify the consideration that we take when making decisions around state-funded funerals, especially when prominent people die,” he says.

There has been confusion about how government-funded funerals work. President Jacpob Zuma granted late soccer star Senzo Meyiwa a provincial official funeral at the request of then KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu in 2014. There was much controversy when popular Umhlobo Wenene DJ Saba Mbixane was not granted the same honour in 2015.

Ngqulunga says that the procedure is for the provincial Premier to write a motivation letter requesting an official funeral, for the President’s consideration.

“We find that some motivations are strong, but others might not be so strong, so the president bases his decision on the motivation letter as well as the category in which the person might fall under,” he explains.

Ngqulunga says that in cases that are not obviously the funerals of government dignitaries, the president makes the decision according to his own discretion.

Here are 7 things you might not know about state-funded funerals. There are four types: state funerals, official funerals, special official funerals and special provincial funerals:

  1. Only serving and former Presidents can be given category 1 state funerals, while incumbent and former Deputy Presidents are entitled to category 2 state funerals.
  2. For state funerals, all flags fly at half-mast at all flag stations from the morning the Presidency announces the funeral until the evening after the burial or the cremation of the deceased.
  3. The days of mourning for state funerals start the morning after the Presidency has announced the funeral until the evening after the burial.
  4. Category 1 “Official funerals” are reserved for Premiers, ministers, the Chief Justice, the Speaker of Parliament, etc. Category 2 “official funerals ” are reserved for deputy ministers, the wives of a serving Presidents and Deputy Presidents, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, etc.
  5.  The mortal remains of a president or former president lie in state at the Union Buildings' Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre, where the public gets to  view them. But the president or acting president may also designate other centres for this purpose.
  6. The bodies of other dignitaries may not lie in state.
  7. In all categories of state-funded funerals, the families of the deceased decide whether there should be a night vigil.

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