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Burial societies has a combine turnover of R15 Billion

Stokvel models have been around for centuries and keep changing with times and one of the oldest has been the burial society sector and is not immune to change. In 1999, International Cooperatives Insurance Mutual Federation (ICMIF) and the Canadian Cooperatives Association (CCA) assisted to fund for the research to be done on burial societies and social clubs in the country done by Prof RT Thomson and Prof DB Posel of Wits University in 2002 and after the consultations meetings, workshops, seminars were conducted on the research report which led to the formation of the South African Federation of Burial Society (SAFOBS) in 2004.

Stokvel Talk visited SAFOBS offices in Pretoria to talk to their National Secretary, Mr. Thulani Mabuza to find more of what the federation does in the burial sector. SAFOBS is a co-operative, which means it is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic and social needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise organized and operated on co-operative principles and ‘co-operative burial society’. Meaning they are a co-operative that provides funeral benefits, including funeral insurance and other services to its members and their dependents.

The members usually make their monthly or weekly contributions to the burial society, i.e. Funeral benefits, which include minimum benefits such as financial assistance or grocery and/or buying of coffin.

“We believe that the primary purpose of the burial societies is to operate for the social, economic, cultural benefit of their members by providing appropriate funeral products and services, and other products at affordable costs”, said Mr Themba Mabuza

All the member-burial societies of the SAFOBS are democratically controlled and collectively owned by their members, to ensure that they continue to operate primarily for the benefit of their members.

The federation aims to maximize profit for burial societies, although recognizing the crucial importance of building financial reserves from the surplus we generate annually as burial societies. Part of our burial society surplus to improve the social wellbeing of the members and communities through activities such as care for the sick and sponsoring underprivileged children’s education.

SAFOBS have over 250 member burial societies and social clubs and are aiming to at least have 30 000 societies and social clubs. With a yearly R50 billion Stokvels turnover, it is estimated that R15 billion of this comes from the burial societies.

“We have been around for 16 years and the challenges are still the same as we keep supporting the BIG Banks and Insurance Companies than using our buying power to do our own projects so that we can sustain ourselves in a cooperatives model. We firstly need to understand educate our members about their buying power which we are having as burial societies in South Africa with a combine turnover of R15 Billion”, he added.

And they have embarked on a training and development road-show in partnership with Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority (Inseta) which will be happening now in March and April 2020 and have a partnership with South African Insurance Company to provide tailored made insurance services to all the member burial societies and social clubs in the country.

“Our goals are to train and register burial societies into co-operatives, which will minimise the costs of funerals, build unity and solidarity among burial societies, support burial societies by improving services to their members and empower members through socio-economic projects”.

And he also believes that Co-operates in South Africa needs to organize and partake not only in the Funeral undertaking services, but Agriculture, Banking, Transport, Catering, Décor and Logistics as well as the Education and Training sectors.

Among other challenges faced by the Burial and Social Clubs in South Africa are “Maladministration, Fraud and Mismanagement of financial resources. Lack of leadership succession plans, inadequate conflict resolution systems within Societies’ leadership. And also lack of effective communication and active engagement in the affairs of societies by the consumers of services, inadequate administration systems of societies, financial management as well as computer literacy skills and 4IR.

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