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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

Family and friends demand apology from AVBOB for its handling of Eusebius McKaiser’s funeral

Friends and family of Eusebius McKaiser have written a letter to AVBOB complaining about how they handled his send-off.

The friends and family of late academic, broadcaster and political analyst Eusebius McKaiser have come together to demand an apology from funeral service company AVBOB.

Forty-four-year-old McKaiser died last month after suffering a suspected epileptic seizure. His passing sent shockwaves through the media, academic world and various spheres of society that he impacted.

Eusebius McKaiser’s friends and family blasts AVBOB

In a strongly worded letter to the AVBOB’s CEO Carl van der Riet, friends and relatives of McKaiser expressed their disappointment at how his send-off was marred by the company’s “shameless marketing” and a scaffolding failure that led to the casket falling into the grave.

The letter is written by McKaiser’s partner Nduduzo Nyanda, with co-signatories such as journalists Sakina Kamwendo, Redi Tlhabi, lecturer and political analyst Dr Sithembile Mbete and Scott Burnett, an Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University.

The letter even states that McKaiser’s cousin had to use her lip-gloss to cover up McKaiser’s dry and cracked lips during the viewing of his body before the funeral.

“We demand from you that some form of reparation is made by your company to the bereaved, whom you have to date only undermined and avoided responding to directly,” the letter states before listing the errors from the memorial service, which took place in Joburg on June 6.

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These are the alleged memorial service blunders:

  • 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 charge the Nyanda-McKaiser family for branded tissues and water bottles at the proceedings;
  • That these marketing attempts were not agreed to by friends or family, and were resisted by some family and friends who were assisting in the organising of the funeral.

One of the things that irked the authors of the letter about the memorial service was how two managers from the company interfered with the set-up at the service.

“We had already briefed the relevant AVBOB person, from whom we had met with resistance when we insisted on reducing the visible AVBOB presence at the event. These people had no clear role at the memorial, other than (we assume) a marketing role,” it states in the four-page letter.

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Eusebius left ‘dry and cracked’

McKaiser was buried in Makhanda, Eastern Cape, on June 10 and the evening before the family had the chance to view his body. But in a move that would’ve made the late academic livid, the letter claims AVBOB did an incomplete job on his lips.

“McKaiser’s cousin had to give her lip-gloss to the mortician to attempt to cover up second-rate cosmetic work which left Mr McKaiser’s lips looking cracked and dry.”

The family also complained about how the company used McKaiser’s funeral as a platform to promote their brand.

They allege examples of this are:

  • That the lining of the casket had been embroidered with a prominent AVBOB logo in full view of the family and mourners at the public viewing the next day;
  • That, at the New Cemetery in Makhanda on Saturday 10 June, without permission or discount, AVBOB-branded tents, tissues, water bottles and other paraphernalia were placed at the cemetery, and that this brand positioning was not discussed in the lead-up to the proceedings;
  • That pallbearers could not place the casket properly on the scaffolding, as the scaffolding was not made to the correct size by AVBOB, and that this created a “chaotic and undignified struggle” at the beginning of proceedings.
  • That when the casket was finally placed on the scaffolding, the support structure failed, and that instead of being buried with dignity the casket crashed to the bottom of the grave, bringing parts of the scaffolding, graveside carpeting, and flowers tumbling in after it.

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AVBOB response

In an article in the Sowetan last month, AVBOB spokesperson Pieter van der Westhuizen said: “With regards to the lowering of the casket, there was indeed a slight delay due to the size of the casket. Our personnel stopped the lowering of the casket to realign the equipment to ensure the casket was lowered appropriately [to prevent] it from falling. The actions of our personnel in this regard were precautionary.”

Van der Westhuizen insisted that his team worked tirelessly to meet the demands of the mourners, in a short space of time. “As an example of this, it can be mentioned that a special casket had to be built, which was done in a very short space of time to meet the short timelines and the family’s needs.”

The spokesperson defended the company’s opportunistic behaviour. “It is common practice for companies to brand their products and this was never forced upon the family. When there were requests to remove the [branding], we obliged.”

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The family and friends of Eusebius McKasier have made the following demands:

  1. Replace the headstone with a new replica that does not have the AVBOB logo on it;
  2. Issue a full refund to Nduduzo Nyanda for the costs of the funeral in Makhanda;
  3. Publish a full apology to Nduduzo Nyanda and the McKaiser/Stevens families where you admit to the mistakes that were made, and commit to better business practice in future, especially when it comes to marketing and branding.

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avbob ceo Eusebius Mckaiser redi tlhabi

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