KWAZULU NATAL, South Africa – After waiting for more than 48 hours for a funeral policy payout, a desperate Thandaza Mtshali did the only thing she thought would make Old Mutual pay out a funeral policy for her uncle’s funeral – she took his body to their office.
Mtshali and her aunt, Ntombenhle Mhlongo, were captured in a video that has since gone viral, dropping off Sifiso Mtshali’s body at an Old Mutual branch in KwaDukuza, north of Durban, on Friday.
Mtshali sister publication on Wednesday that her uncle died after a long-term illness, on Thursday, November 7. She put in a claim with the financial services company on Monday, November 11.
“I put through a claim on the Monday and they told me that it was already after 1pm and that they would process my claim only the next day, and I understood. They said I would have the money after 48 hours,” she said.
Mtshali said that on the Tuesday [November 12] she received an SMS, seen saying there would be a delay in the payout and that further assessments needed to be done. There was no explanation for this.
“They have never till this day explained what caused the delay. They said all my documents were in order,” she said.
She claimed that when she asked why the claim had been delayed on Thursday, an employee told them to borrow money to pay for the funeral, because their claim was still being assessed. This frustrated and angered the family.
“I saw it fit to take the body to them while they were doing their assessment, because that could have taken months. I saw it best for them to figure out where they put the body, as long as they kept it safe and it didn’t rot,” said Mtshali.
“I am unemployed and I don’t have any other money. We are not a rich family, we are struggling. The money I paid was from my children’s grant. I did not want the embarrassment of an undignified funeral just because we are poor. I want to give my family dignified funerals and they [Old Mutual] failed me,” she said.
After arranging with a local mortuary, Mtshali and Mhlongo took the body to the Old Mutual offices. She said after speaking to an employee, they received payment in less than an hour and were able to bury Sifiso on Sunday.
The banking and insurance group came under fire on Tuesday when the video was circulated on social media.
The company, which didn’t respond to queries on Wednesday, issued a statement on social media, saying the claim had been paid.
In a series of tweets, Old Mutual said the incident was isolated and regrettable, adding that the claim had needed further assessments.
It said it strove to pay claims within eight hours, once all requirements were met.
Meanwhile, president of the National Funeral Practitioners Association of SA (Nafupa SA), Muzi Hlengwa, confirmed that they would be seeking legal action against the financial services company for the pain and suffering the Mtshali family endured.
“I need them to pay for the abuse and pain they put me through. They took advantage of me because they saw I was young, black and unemployed,” said Mtshali.
The MEC for social development in the province, Nonhlanhla Khoza, said her department was “shocked and disgusted” by the events of the video and the treatment of the family.
“We are really taken aback by this incident. The action of the insurance company is sickening. Clearly, there are a number of other families who go through this trauma when they are supposed to be given money to bury their loved ones,” said Khoza.
“The circulation of this video on social media shows the plight that our communities have to go through. Old Mutual inflicted much pain to this family after losing their loved one,” Khoza said.
The MEC is expected to visit the family on Thursday.
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