FRANCISTOWN: Once upon a time a funeral was a sacred event and was treated with utmost respect. However, these days, things have changed. Funerals are no longer as sombre as they used to be.
They have been transformed into parties. Alcohol consumption at funerals has become common, a development that was unheard of before. To make matters worse, some bereaved people intoxicate themselves even before their relative is buried.
A couple of months back, tragedy hit a family, when a male member passed away. At the night vigil, some mourners were seen consuming alcohol. It was surprising to see old men of respectable status gathering in a small circle to imbibe Chibuku.
As they drank, their tongues became loose and they behaved like they were in a bar. The very people who should guide the youth were doing the contrary. No wonder, young men got into the act of funeral drinking, though covertly. When drinking spots closed, inebriated people came to the funeral at night and some of them used foul language.
Other demanded food as if they were at a restaurant or their homes. Sadly, people at the night vigil did not take any action against the unbecoming conduct. The mourners behaved as if the drunk and drinking were engaged in normal activity at the funeral. Today funerals, especially night vigils are treated like 'all night parties'.
Tatitown Customary Court president Margaret Mosojane has expressed her concerns about drinking at funerals.
She says that as an adult, she knows the proper funeral practices. Back in the day, she says funerals were treated with respect and honour. Even food was not consumed at funerals. "Today we see people cooking lots of food as if they are feasting.
Mourners' sorrows are turned into expenses that amuse other people," she says. She explains that in the past
This is because people always want to show off that even at funerals, they can afford lots of food and alcohol," she says.
She asserts that some people are addicted to alcohol so much that even at funerals, it has become a habit to drink. She says this is disgusting and intolerable. She laments that people glorify funerals as if they are weddings or parties. "Back then such behaviour was punished. Dikgosi would identify those who drink at funerals and they would be walloped," she says.
She appeals to all community leaders, from Dikgosi, councillors and even MPs to help stop the practice. Gunni Moses, president of Monarch Customary Court says he is aware of the immoral behaviour of drinking at funerals.
He says people need to comprehend that there is a time for everything. He says there is a time for happiness and a time for sadness.
"Alcohol is associated with happy moments. How can people drink when others have lost loved ones? This is a disgusting habit," he says. He says elderly people are the ones who show the youth that drinking at funerals is alright.
He dismisses this as irresponsibility and lack of moral decency. Moses said that in the past, drinking at funerals was unheard of and those who flouted the tradition were dealt with by the leadership.
"Ever since the centralisation of the customary law, discipline has been destabilised. People do as they please and Dikgosi have limited powers to handle such indiscipline," he laments.