College of Humanities

Research into COVID-19 Restrictions on Burial Rites and Religious/Cultural Schemes

What was the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on burial rites, and religious and cultural schemas of South African indigenous societies in the eMacambini community in KwaZulu-Natal?

That was the question posed among the community by Mr Ntokozo Vundla, who graduated with a Master’s degree in Social Sciences (Anthropology) – the first in his family to get such a high qualification.

‘Our government officials, when passing laws and policies (permanent or temporary) disregard the presence of the people, especially rural based individuals,’ said Vundla. ‘I hope my study gives the eMacambini community a voice to draw the attention of the authorities. Cultural schemas, rituals and burial rites shape or socially construct one’s identity and promote cultural relativism which is a sense of pride and belonging.’

Research findings revealed that the eMacambini community were heavily impacted by COVID-19 which affected patterns of their burial rites, cultural schemas and rituals. ‘Government authorities together with advisory committees (the South African government and the World Health Organisation) should in times of the pandemic be considerate of indigenous knowledge systems that guide the process of death, cultural schemas and rituals of indigenous communities,’ said Vundla.

His recognised the use of the isiZulu language by research participants as a phenomenological expression of painful experiences. It further showed that it is possible for students to study indigenous communities in their own languages which fall within decolonial ethnography.

Vundla recommended that ‘the content of this research and all other related studies on pandemics versus Africa cultural schemas and rituals be integrated into the content of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Anthropology (102) Culture and Societies and Anthropology 201- Culture, Health and Illness curriculum as a new section to deal with the impact of pandemic outbreaks in African traditions, cultures and religion.’

He thanked his family, friends, and supervisor Dr Balungile Zondi for their support. Vundla also thanked academics, companies and friends who

contributed financially towards his registration fees for his degree.

Vundla plans to do his PhD in Anthropology at UKZN.