By Anna Majavu
More than 20 high-profile journalists and public figures have slammed the funeral company AVBOB for ruining the memorial service and funeral of the late Makhanda-born public figure, Eusebius McKaiser, by using the sad occasions as marketing events without the permission of McKaiser’s widower, Nduduzo Nyanda or McKaiser’s family.
The group released an open letter on 11 July demanding that AVBOB pay reparations for its behaviour at the memorial service in Johannesburg on 6 June and the funeral in Makhanda on 10 June.
“We note that AVBOB staff attempted to erect their banners on the Empire Place premises on the morning of the memorial to market its services to mourners; that AVBOB staff attempted to insert, and to charge the Nyanda-McKaiser family for branded tissues and water bottles at the proceedings;and that these attempts to market your brand in the context of a highly public memorial service were not grounded in any consultation with friends or family, and in fact had to be firmly resisted by a number of us who were assisting in the organising”, says the letter.
The signatories include Nyanda, the McKaiser family representative Rurik McKaiser and high profile authors and journalists Zukiswa Wanner, Nolwazi Tusini, Sakina Kamwendo, Megan Lubke, Oliver Dickson, Redi Tlhabi, Joanne Joseph, Iman Rapetti, Karyn Maughan, Sithembile Mbete Pennsylvania State University professor Scott Burnett and public figures Luyanda Mfeka, Lovelyn Nwadeyi, Kate Stegeman were also among the signatories.
The letter says AVBOB openly defied instructions from Nyanda and McKaiser’s family about how the events should look and even embroidered the lining of McKaiser’s casket with “a prominent AVBOB logo” and also branded their logo on McKaiser’s tombstone.
At the New Cemetery in Makhanda on 10 June, pallbearers could not place the casket properly on the scaffolding, as the scaffolding was not made to the correct size by AVBOB.
“This created a chaotic and undignified struggle right at the beginning of proceedings. This was eventually remedied by mourners, who took matters into their own hands, as AVBOB staff was stumped not knowing what to do”, the letter continues.
McKaiser’s family and friends had been immensely distressed when his casket “crashed to the bottom of the grave, bringing parts of the scaffolding, graveside carpeting, and flowers tumbling in after it”, says the letter.
The letter describes AVBOB’s marketing as “manic level” and “brazen and shameless” and says AVBOB has refused to meet with Nyanda to discuss the problems.
The group is demanding that AVBOB replace McKaiser’s headstone with one that does not have the AVBOB logo on it and issue a refund to Nyanda. They also want a full apology to Nduduzo Nyanda and the McKaiser/Stevens families.
AVBOB Corporate Affairs manager Adriaan Bester said the company usually brands tombstones in case they get damaged and the cemetery needs someone to repair it. Bester claimed that Nyanda approved an AVBOB logo on the tombstone, but said the company would be willing to remove it.
“We have acknowledged the issue experienced with the lowering device and the required
repositioning of the casket during the ceremony. It is certainly not what we would expect
from our service and we will address this internally. It was never the intent of AVBOB or
any of its employees or contractors to offend any person involved with the funeral and we
unreservedly apologise for any offence caused” said Bester.
(This article was updated on 12 July at 8:30pm to include comment received from AVBOB).