In most African communities, funeral rites for victims of suicide or other unnatural death causes tend to differ from those of people who pass on through natural ways.
The Sotho community of Gungwe in Gwanda South constituency who are among those who have a negative perception about suicide share beliefs associated with unnatural deaths and other rites observed during times of death.
The community of Gungwe and Ntalale Gwanda South constituency were recently befallen by two unfortunate incidents.
Two government officials drowned after their vehicle was swept away at Msisi Bridge in Ntalale while on their way back to Gwanda.
Three days before that, a 20-year old man was found hanging in a suspected suicide following an altercation with some family members.
The nature of these deaths in African communities is regarded as unnatural, as it is believed that they were not predestined.
Community members say burial procedures that are performed for those who die in car accidents, suicide and thunder-strike are handled differently from those persons who pass on through natural causes.
“In the case of self-inflicted death or death through unnatural ways, the norm is that the funeral wake is held outside the home. This is to avoid a recurrence of such an incident within that home,” said one villager.
The Sotho people also share how news about death is communicated to a man who has lost his wife.
“The person who is coming to tell me for example that my wife is late should put cotton balls in his ears. Before delivering the news, the bearer of the bad news removes the cotton wool and places it in my ears. Failure to do that will result in the person receiving the news falling deaf,” said Headman Makhurane.
A married woman whose partner would have died is also expected to perform certain rituals during the burial ceremony to avoid being afflicted by diseases.
“During the burial, the widow is required to lift up her dress, sit next to the grave and slide soil into the coffin using her bottom, that is our culture,” said one woman.
While some may dismiss these beliefs as mere myths, the Sotho community warn that failure to follow these practices has negative consequences to the families.