Laws Concerning Death in South Africa

Every country in the world has a set of laws and regulations concerning how the dead should be recorded, buried or cremated. There are specific laws governing death in South Africa as well.

It should be noted that, regulations are not meant to make it difficult for the bereft but it is to ensure dignity for the disposal of the deceased and to protect the living from diseases as a result of negligent handling of the bodies.

This includes the transporting and disposal of the body.

Death in South Africa – Government Policies

In many countries the central government passes acts of parliament which are defined as the laws of the land therefore setting the policies of that territory. On the other hand, these recorded statutes lay down in detail how the policies should be carried out in South Africa.

Death in South AfricaThere are four acts of parliament that inform the public on the action necessary when it comes to death, the acts are as follows:

  • The Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1992.
  • The Inquests Act of 1959.
  • The National Health Act of 2003
  • Cemeteries and crematoria acts of the individual provinces and municipalities in accordance with Local Government and Municipal Systems Act of 2000(act 32 of 2000) and
  • Section 156 of the Constitution of South Africa.

In addition to these laws, there are also bylaws that are used to govern the municipalities. These laws also clearly dictate how South Africans citizens both in South Africa and those abroad should be handled.

Ministry of Home Affairs – Satisfaction and Exasperation

The government departments and other institutions that are responsible for carrying out the policies that are set up within the acts of parliament include the Ministry of Home Affairs which is considered in varying degrees of satisfaction and exasperation.

This institution deals with recording births and deaths, issuing of both birth and death certificates. The other primary institution is the Ministry of health which recently took over from the saps the responsibility of running mortuaries and conducting autopsies. The local government also plays an elemental role in ensuring that there are facilities for burial and cremation in their local municipalities.

In addition to these government departments, there are also undertakers in the funeral parlour who play a vital role in carrying out the many legal requirements following death and therefore they follow the given legal aspects when handling the dead.

Death in South Africa – Natural or Unnatural?

In South Africa the causes of death are usually grouped into two, natural and unnatural causes of death, a natural death in South Africa is only considered when it is concluded that there was no foul play involved, for example when one falls sick and is put under of a care a medical practitioner, the individual is well taken care of, but then after sometime dies, this is considered as a natural death

On the other hand, an unnatural death is one that occurs unexpectedly this can include death through accidents, suicide death in public spaces, pediatric deaths (these are deaths of children under the age of 16 years) and many others.

The two types of death are defined broadly and there are details, policies and steps that need to be taken when faced with either the two cases.

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