Burial funds in South Africa: help in the event of death

Three years ago, the NAC Burial Fund of the New Apostolic Church Cape celebrated eighty years. The fund was established in 1933 by the then Assistant Chief Apostle Heinrich Franz Schlaphoff (1894−1965). It was his wish that the members of the Church receive a dignified burial.

Why a burial fund? Schlaphoff was aware of the poverty in the congregations around him. Many of the members were not able to pay for a dignified burial for themselves or their relatives, which is why he decided to establish a burial fund. The idea was for members to contribute an annual fee, which would then be at their disposal to ensure a dignified burial. The idea soon took hold and found supporters. In 1943 seventy-five members paid into the fund. By 1960 there were already 12,000 policy holders. In 1962 the fund was provisionally registered under the Friendly Societies Act. Full registration followed in 1971. The Burial Fund has its own constitution and is run by a Board of Directors separate from that of the New Apostolic Church Cape. By the end of 1997 there were 43,500 policy holders. Currently 65,000 members hold a policy.

A stable fund

The Burial Fund has grown into a financially stable fund. It even serves as a family insurance: it allows a principal member of a family to cover all dependants under one policy at a very reasonable premium of 250 rand per year (approximately 15 US dollars). It ensures that everyone in the family receives a dignified burial. The Burial Fund negotiates contracts with undertaking firms in the region. When a family member dies, the family goes to the designated undertakers in their area to arrange the funeral.

Living benefits

The strength of the fund motivated the Board to diversify in September 2014. “Living Benefits” is the name of the new branch. This service is intended to help members in difficult situations. It provides legal assistance, consultation services, and a standard legal document service. If required, a consultation with an attorney is provided. In the case of an emergency, the fund also steps in: for example, following traumatic incidents such as rape or other acts of violence. HIV treatment is also important, because especially in South Africa many people are HIV-positive. The fund provides a long list of services: there is a national network of 258 attorneys who can be contacted for a free 30-minute consultation. There is also a 24-hour telephonic legal advice line that provides assistance in emergency situations. In case of medical emergencies, this includes transportation to the next hospital.

HIV-support is also available around the clock. Members of the fund can turn to the hotline if they have questions.

Burial funds

There are several burial or death benefit funds around the world that are backed by the respective District Church. Also the New Apostolic Church South East Africa has such a burial scheme. It is completely independent from the one in Cape Town.

Photo: Iryna Denysova

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