Restrictions on travel have disrupted a deeply important cultural practice for many Black residents in Cape Town: returning the body for burial hundreds of miles home in the Eastern Cape province.
KHAYELITSHA, South Africa — In ordinary times, there would have been no question where Zinzile Mweli would be buried: alongside his ancestors in the village where he was born.
But when Mr. Mweli, a minibus taxi owner, died last month from Covid-19 in Cape Town, 600 miles west of his hometown, his family was forced to confront a new predicament for many Black South Africans during the pandemic: Would it be possible to return his body home for a funeral, accompanied by his loved ones from Cape Town?
In March, South Africa imposed one of the world’s most severe lockdowns in response to the coronavirus, restricting travel between provinces. This disrupted a deeply important cultural practice for many Black residents in Cape Town: returning the bodies of family members to the neighboring Eastern Cape province for burial.
The new rules around travel for funerals are so complex, and add such extra expense, that they have become practically insurmountable for many families, according to funeral directors and community leaders in Cape Town.