Kenyans got the chance to mourn Safaricom chief executive Bob Collymore on Thursday, a man who has — among other terms — been eulogised as an industry titan for building a legacy of innovation and transformation at the leading telco in the region.
Painted as a man of the people, a down-to-earth CEO who interacted with Kenyans from all walks, Collymore was also lauded for the modest send-off.
He chose cremation rather than a grand funeral which might have — for a person of his stature and wealth — cost tens of millions of shillings in the name of hosting a multitude of VIPs from the government and private industry.
Collymore’s family chose Lee Funeral Home, a morgue preferred by the well-to-do and which has hosted a number of prominent personalities such as politicians Kenneth Matiba, Nicholas Biwott, Joseph Nkaissery and former First Lady Lucy Kibaki.
If Lee Funeral Home employees picked Collymore’s body from his house in Kitisuru estate to the morgue on Argwings Kodhek Road, the family paid Sh5,000. The daily cost for keeping a body at Lee Funeral Home is Sh3,000.
The cheapest coffin at the home goes for Sh35,000 and the second cheapest is Sh65,000.
The most expensive is Sh130,000.
Collymore’s family chose the Sh65,000 coffin.
Handling the body, a service that includes washing and dressing, costs Sh5,000.
The vehicle, a Jaguar, that ferried the body to Kariakor crematorium, and which carries two people, cost the family Sh130,000.
If the Collymore family members contracted the funeral home to book the crematorium, it cost them Sh65,000.
Some families ask for the ashes of their loved ones to keep or scatter at special places.
The funeral home provides the urn to keep the ashes.
The urns come in two varieties — a locally sourced one, which costs Sh15,000 or an imported one that goes for Sh75,000.
Assuming that the Collymore family took the entire package offered by the funeral home, it would have approximately cost Sh280,000, way lower than most funerals of ordinary Kenyans who are made to hold fund raisers to offset the huge bills.
Death is certainly not cheap in Kenya, if the numerous fundraisers held daily across the country are anything to go by.
Two weeks ago, Kenyans on Twitter recounted how, unable to afford the high cost of transporting the dead to the mortuary or places of burial, resort to using public service vehicles.
One woman, @Sassyrigz, narrated how she transported the body of her nephew to a mortuary kilometres away in a matatu because her brother and sister-in-law could not afford to hire a vehicle.
Neither could they bring themselves to do it themselves.
Another Kenyan, @Ohta_Royota, said he knows of two men who transported their father’s body from Nairobi to a mortuary in Nyahururu in the back seat of a private car.
“They sat him between them. Their cousin offered his car since they had no money to pay for proper transport,” he tweeted.
@KMeja said a friend of his also took his wife’s body to Naivasha in a private car.
“My friend said he cried the whole time,” @KMeja said.
@NickMaina narrated how he once gave a lift to a couple walking to Kenyatta National Hospital carrying a baby at 10pm.
On arrival, the woman offered him money to thank him but he declined and told her to use it to pay the consultation fee.
That is when she informed him that the child was dead.
@Muvaite said he of knew a man who ferried his son’s body from Mombasa to Nairobi in the co-driver’s seat while @Ohta_Ryota narrated how a former colleague and her sister transported the body of a child from Kisumu to Nairobi in a bus.
@CaNunga talked of a couple that transported the body of a week-old baby from Nairobi to Machakos in a public service vehicle.
Reacting to the horrifying accounts, @phanice07 said it signifies the level of poverty in the country.
According to @phanice07, it is unacceptable that some Kenyans cannot afford to hire a pick-up truck to transport the bodies of their relatives to the mortuary or resting place.
Constable John Mark Mwanzia of Muthaiga Police Station who is attached at the City Mortuary says transporting bodies in PSVs like matatus, buses or taxis is against the law.
“It is also a crime to transport a body in a private car if you don’t have an authorising letter from the police,” he said.
Should a loved one die at home, the officer told the Saturday Nation, the correct thing to do is to report the death to the police. Police will take it to the family’s preferred mortuary.
“Police can also give the family a letter authorising it to hire a hearse,” Constable Mwanzia added.