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In spite of fierce opposition, township residents from KwaMashu and Umlazi will next year have no choice but to cremate their loved ones as the eThekwini municipality is set on building two R20-million crematoriums in the predominantly black areas.
“The time for talking is long over,” said the city’s Parks, Recreation and Culture head, Thembinkosi Ngcobo. “It is time for action. There is just no land left for cemeteries.”
Ngcobo said his department had already submitted a report to council requesting R70m for the grave shortage project.
R20m will go towards the construction of the crematoriums and the rest will be used to revamp the city’s cemeteries.
“We want the crematoriums to be completed by next year,” he said.
There are 500 000 grave sites in Durban in 65 cemeteries.
According to Ngcobo, the gravesites already hold 1.5 million remains. The city has two crematoriums in Umbilo and Tongaat, while there are three private crematoriums.
“There is no other option,” said Ngcobo.
However, cultural activist Babu Zakhele Gumede said that black people would not consider cremation under any circumstances. Black people, said Gumede, had “a lot of respect” for the dead and were not accustomed to cremation.
He said they went to graves to communicate with their forefathers and ancestors.
But Ngcobo said black people had no choice but to adapt to the change, or the city would soon become “one big graveyard” if the changes were not implemented immediately.
He said the council had already approved a R2m, two-year programme to educate officials, community leaders and residents about alternatives to burial.
The city has also been at loggerheads with cultural experts, religious leaders and members of the public about the city’s plan to recycle graves.
With 20 000 burials every year, Ngcobo announced in 2010 that grave space would be non-existent within three years, and suggested, among other things, that graves be dug up and the remains buried in smaller graves.
The department has also introduced discounts to people who bury their loved ones during the week, while penalising those who cause delays at cemeteries. - Independent on Saturday