The affordable education loan option
Durban - Durban will soon become “one big graveyard” if alternative interment methods are not introduced to deal with the dire shortage of burial space.
This was said by eThekwini parks, recreation and culture head, Thembinkosi Ngcobo, at the South African Cemeteries Association conference in Durban on Wednesday.
Ngcobo said housing developments and cemeteries were competing for land, and there was not enough available for both.
There were many cultural and religious beliefs that had to be considered, but there was a serious shortage of burial space, he said.
“Another issue is that land is not an expandable resource and it has to accommodate many competing needs. Once the land is used for burial purposes it can’t, in terms of our law, be used for any other purpose,” he said.
In 2011 the municipality embarked on a massive programme of recycling of graves, and it continues to promote options such as cremation and vertical burials.
Ngcobo said there were 500 000 grave sites in Durban that were located in 65 cemeteries.
“However, in these grave sites we already have 1.5 million human remains. Over the last 10 years there has been a cry for more burial space. We cannot establish cemeteries 50m away from identifiable water sources, and the environmental assessment prescribes to us what type of infrastructure to use when establishing a cemetery,” he said.
Ngcobo said this had pushed up the costs of establishing cemeteries.
“History has taught us what happens when inappropriate land is used for burial. Body fluids escape to nearby water sources. In Newlands East, coffin flies escape grave sites and invade people’s homes. At some point we had to close down that grave site,” he said.
Ngcobo said that, 10 years ago, “not a single African person” was cremated at the municipal crematoriums, but records showed that 100 African people had been cremated from June 2010 to June 2011.
He said this number was significant, considering that cremation was a foreign concept to Africans.
Wesley Dlamini, from the Department of Home Affairs, said in 2010, 32 011 people died in the eThekwini metro and 12 301 in the Ugu district. In KwaZulu-Natal, 115 889 deaths were recorded that year.
He said the 2010 statistics showed that the number of deaths in eThekwini was far greater than all other municipalities in the province.
Nationally, more deaths were recorded in KZN compared with other provinces, although Gauteng had the biggest population.
Municipal cemeteries manager Pepe Dass said the burials recorded from 2003 to 2011 showed a gradual decline.
However, he questioned the accuracy of the figures, as some burials were not recorded because of corrupt staff pocketing revenue and then not recording burials.
“A number of dismissals occurred during this period with large losses of revenue at certain centres,” Dass said.