For the past three weeks, the Maitland Crematorium has recorded its highest numbers of cremations since the start of the pandemic. Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency
For the past three weeks, the Maitland Crematorium has recorded its highest numbers of cremations since the start of the pandemic. Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency

Record number of cremations may delay when Cape families can collect ashes

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Feb 5, 2021

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Cape Town - Families face delays in having ashes ready for collection as demand for cremation has risen threefold at the Maitland crematorium. The crematorium is experiencing an exceptionally high demand for cremations as a result of the deaths due to the second wave of Covid-19.

Mayco member for community services and health, Zahid Badroodien, said: “The crematorium is operating at full capacity, but due to the volume, may experience delays in having ashes available for collection.

“For the past three weeks, the Maitland Crematorium has had its highest numbers of cremations recorded since the start of the pandemic reaching up to 250 cremations per week.

“This has been consistently high since the beginning of the second wave and the facility will remain operating at maximum capacity for approximately three more weeks.

“The City has considered and implemented all available options to further increase capacity at the crematorium. These include extended operating hours, installing additional temporary storage capacity and seeking authorisation from the Provincial Air Emissions Authority to operate the older cremators at the facility.

“With the additional capacity available for use from this week onwards, it is anticipated that more cremations will be processed daily to ease the backlog and alleviate pressure on the system.”

“It is important to note that while the City has optimised capacity, the extraordinarily high demand is still exceeding the capacity of the facility and the crematorium will be unable to meet the normal 72-hour turnaround time, which is the normal standard for cremations,” he said.

Meanwhile, an authority on African burial practices and beliefs, Sihawukele Ngubane of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said he believed very few of those being cremated were black South Africans.

“I doubt many of those being cremated are black African people, but of course there will be a few. These will be those who have informed their families that cremation is their choice.

“Culturally, Africans are most reluctant to have a cremation because in many of our customs, we have certain rituals that cannot be formed on ashes.

“African culture, like Christianity, believes in the concept of death being a graduation to eternal life. The culture associates burning a body in fire with hell.”

Cape Argus

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