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Boom Time for Coffin Makers in AIDS-Ravaged Zimbabwe

April 27, 1996

AIDS has made coffin-making a big business in Zimbabwe.

Caskets come in varied shapes and sizes made from all kinds of cut-rate materials. Some models even can be folded for easy transportation by bus to funerals in distant tribal villages.

Sellers offer bargains next to roadside kiosks. Cut-price coffin stores have sprung up with brightly painted advertising signs.

Putting aside its simple furniture, the main workshop for mentally handicapped trainees in Harare now turns out rough caskets using donated materials.

``The demand is very high. That’s why you find everybody is into the business. That’s why we are part of it,″ said Stephen Ncube, the workshop manager.

Zimbabwe’s biggest conventional funeral parlor says it opened eight new branches around the country to cope with increased demand for burials in the past five years.

Regular coffins sell for about 1,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($110). New styles made from reject timber, cardboard packaging material or framed canvas start at around 200 Zimbabwe dollars.

The collapsible coffin, a shroud on a sturdy wooden frame, folds into a bag slightly larger than a briefcase.

It saves on the high cost of transporting a standard coffin to a remote tribal burial. Says one advertisement, ``You bury your dead, not your future.″

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