read them in detail, hoping of finding an early reference to AIDS, I found only that in bothdocuments there was not one single reference to any cause of death in the numerous, butselectively detailed, case studies. In a more coherent version of this paper, I would link thisinto the recurring themes of proximity to death, knowing how to handle and prepare acorpse, publically expressed knowledge regarding the cause of death, potential implicationin the death, and expressions of innocence in relation to this, such as a public silence, orthe free offer of food after a burial (see McNeill 2009).If the multitude of tasks before the funeral organizers seems vast, these pale intoinsignificance when compared with the complex and multifaceted means by which funeralsare paid for. With the exception of the very rich – who can afford the highest monthlypremiums on funeral insurance and have the entire affair covered by an insurance pay-out– the vast majority of people in Venda have to cobble payment from various sources. Noone funeral will have the same pattern of payment; this will be dictated by a series ofvariables such as the deceased’s former employment, their general standing in thecommunity, and the extent to which their funeral insurance (if they have one) covers thefinal costs.13
In most cases, the funeral insurance policies taken out by family members only pay outenough to partially assist in the overall cost of burying a relative.10For example, and withmy limited understanding of the various systems in place, a policy taken out with MMKFuneral Services in which the client (under the age of 71 and in good health) pays R75 amonth will pay out R20, 000 for the death of the policy holder, R10, 000 for the death oftheir child aged between 14-26, and R4, 500 for the death of the policy holder’s baby. Thepay out will be more if the monthly premium increases, and less as it decreases. Themethod of payment for monthly premiums is generally though the ‘funeral insurancemobiles’ referred to at the start of this paper. State welfare is one of, if not themost reliableforms of income in post-apartheid South Africa. Pensions, disability grants, child supportand the like are distributed in rural areas via armoured mobile cash vans that chargearound villages on a monthly rotation, giving out state benefits. In what has become knownin Venda as the ‘goloi dzambulungo’ (lit. cars of the funeral, meaning ‘funeral procession’),the armoured vehicles are closely followed on their rounds by the procession of funeralinsurance mobiles, that duly set-up-shop directly opposite the pay out points. The pensionpayout (mundende– lit. a long queue) is always a bustling affair, with stalls set up at whichwomen sell fruit, vegetables, and second hand clothes. Once the insurance vans pull in,two or three men or women jump from them and mingle in the crowd; fulfilling the tripartiterole of spying on any opposition, tracking down known clients who may have defaulted ontheir payments and engaging in illicit loan shark-type activities.