Biggest Fashion Sale Of The Year! Shop 12 000 Up To 70% OFF!
Durban - Leave the dead alone. That is the plea from shocked communities about a plan by the eThekwini Municipality to reuse unleased graves that are 10 years or older.
The plan is already being implemented in oThongathi (Tongaat) on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast where a local councillor said he had seen graves as old as 60 years being dug up and human remains strewn about.
“In the graves that were opened, I was shocked to see pieces of skull on one, and on another a full skull with all the teeth still in place,” said Brian Jayanathan.
“They just simply buried those remains. What worries me is that someone else will be buried in that same grave.”
The city’s parks, leisure and cemeteries department confirmed last week that the Tongaat Regional Cemetery (Desainagar) had reached its capacity.
Only families who had graves under lease that granted them the exclusive right of use would be permitted to reuse them, it said.
City spokesman Thabo Mofokeng said all graves in eThekwini that were 10 years or older that didn’t have leases, records or tombstones, would be available for public reuse, as provided for in the KwaZulu-Natal Cemeteries Act.
But Jayanathan said this should not be allowed to happen. “The city cannot use short-term solutions to sort out a long-term problem.
This issue needs to be looked at carefully because it is very sensitive.”
He said the closure of the Desainagar cemetery had come as a shock to residents.
“This places greater burden on the affected residents as they either resort to cremation or have to bury their deceased away from Tongaat,” he said.
Jayanathan said the city had not bothered to inform residents about the status of the graves.
“It’s of concern to the Tongaat community that burials are now going to take place in Molweni and Tafuleni, about 40km from KwaMashu and Inanda,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal historian Jabulani Maphalala described the grave reuse plan as disturbing, saying it went against the cultural beliefs of many.
Maphalala, a former history professor at the University of Zululand, said a grave had to be respected. Burying someone over another’s grave showed no respect and discriminated against the cultural beliefs of people, he said.
“Many Zulu people still believe in tradition and part of that is we still speak to those who have left us because we don’t believe that they die, but find comfort in (the fact) that they are resting,” he said, explaining that this was done where the person had died and at the grave.
“If someone is buried over your relative, how are you going to speak to them? It will be a major disaster in terms of cultural beliefs.
In fact, this is wrong and takes away people’s rights to practise their tradition freely,” he said.
For people to have to pay for leases to ensure that no one was buried over their loved ones was sad, said Maphalala.
“Can you imagine the stress this causes because you begin to wonder for how long people will have to pay?
“Why can’t the dead be left alone? There is more than enough land to bury people.
“People should not be deprived of a right to be left in peace when they die.”
Maphalala said the municipality needed to look at how people would be affected by the plan, especially those who believed in their ancestors.
“No one has the right to take that away from anyone. They must find land because I also know that many African people don’t believe in cremation,” he said.
Chairwoman of the Durban North Ratepayers’ Association, Irene Read, said she was shocked to hear of a grave being reused.
“What is this world coming to? My first instinct is that there are many people who have beliefs when it comes to the graves of their loved ones. So I really wonder how this is going to work.”
Read feared the plan would have cultural and financial implications.
“Everyone will be forced to lease out of fear that their relatives may find themselves sharing a grave. It really is not a nice picture.
The city really has to find another way around this,” she said.
Mofokeng said families who wanted exclusive use of graves needed to contact the office of the district manager of the parks, leisure and cemeteries department to apply for a 10-year lease.
“Any person who does not intend to lease the grave where a family member has been buried and objects to it being reused, should raise his or her objection in writing by September 30,” he said.
Those who objected should indicate their relationship to the deceased and provide the block and grave number as well as proof of identification.