Opportunity knocks on desperate doors
Wednesday 31 March 2004
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ZIMBABWE: Opportunity knocks on desperate doors

A Harare coffin manufacturer busy at work.

HARARE, 23 January (PLUSNEWS) - With about 3,500 people reportedly dying of AIDS-related illnesses each week, coffin manufacturers in Zimbabwe have seen a sharp rise in sales.

A sign in Matapi coffin market in the capital, Harare, reads: "COFFINS AVAILABLE 24 HOURS".

Givemore Tadiwa started operating here about six years ago and has since become a market leader. "Initially, we were manufacturing furniture, but as the death rate in Zimbabwe started soaring, we realised that we could generate more money by making coffins," he told PlusNews.

The sight of coffin makers displaying their wares close to residential apartments has caused some discomfort among locals, but Tadiwa is more fatalistic. "Because of the HIV-related high death rate in the country, many people have become so used to death that they are no longer afraid of seeing coffins on display in public."

Although for most people is not an obvious career choice, economic hardship forced Tadiwa into the business. "The honest truth is that I have always feared death - even after making some coffins, I am afraid to look at them because they make me uneasy. But I have to get on with the unpleasant job because I have to sustain my family."

The coffin business has now become so lucrative - and competitive - that one manufacturer has conveniently set up shop opposite Harare Central Hospital.

Coffin manufacturers are not the only group of people reaping a profit from Zimbabwe's high number of deaths. Of late, scores of street vendors can be seen peddling their wares to the thousands of people who throng Harare's Granville Cemetery to bury their loved ones.

Dennis Katupira, a vendor at the cemetery, told PlusNews he had tried for years to get a job, without success. Then he went to bury a relative at the cemetery one day, and saw an opportunity to make money.

"I realised that mourners, who needed things like cool drinks and cigarettes, had to drive back to town to buy them. That is when I decided to start selling goods at the cemetery, although it is very uncomfortable because I am terrified to be working from the cemetery," Katupira said.

As in most cultures, Zimbabweans generally try to avoid cemeteries unless for purposes of burial. Gordon Chavunduka, president of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association, said economic difficulties had forced people to engage in "unAfrican" practices.

"As custodians of the country's traditions and values, we are disturbed that people have lost respect for the final resting place of others by selling wares at cemeteries while others are in mourning," he said.


Recent ZIMBABWE Reports

Fresh TV show gives youth voice and advise, 10/Mar/04
Ambitious plans to roll out ARVs, 10/Mar/04
Free ARVs available from next month, 17/Feb/04
EU aid for health services, 26/Jan/04
High costs hamper access to ARVs, 9/Jan/04


The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria

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