With a waiting period of up to eight weeks, funeral parlours and undertakers in the Western Cape have appealed for intervention amid a backlog causing delays in cremation processes.
The backlog, caused by insufficient capacity and exacerbated by load shedding, has reportedly forced undertakers to use cremation chambers in Gqeberha and George, at an extra cost.
This, as the Drakenstein Crematorium in Paarl has been shut for the past couple of months, and crematoriums in Maitland, Worcester and Durbanville were reported to be operating at 50% capacity.
Chairperson of the Funeral Industry Reformed Association, Johan Rousseau, said delays in cremating bodies were a serious concern for the industry.
“The capacity of Cape Town is not sufficient to assist the funeral industry.
Bodies are piling up and we understand the waiting period for cremation is between three and eight weeks, which poses very serious health threats.
“We have engaged with funeral parlours and will act on their behalf legally to get the government to find a solution.
“We have serious concerns because our members in the industry are suffering because of these delays,” he said.
Doves funeral service chief executive Jodene Smith said the backlog was causing delays for bereaved families in receiving ashes.
“Load shedding most definitely does play a role, as the delay means the deceased have to be stored for a longer period and some undertakers may not have generators or any back-up power available. We have all seen an astronomical increase in diesel and maintenance cost due to running generators for long periods.”
Smith said there has also been an increase in crime, involving vandals stealing parts from generators.
“We have also received word from Independent Crematoriums of South Africa that they have installed generators at all of the sites in the Western Cape in order to avoid delay, but sad to mention that our generator in Worcester has been vandalised by some of the community members.
“This is being fixed at the moment and therefore, until it comes back, load shedding is affecting us at this branch, but we have received permission to operate until 10pm to make sure that we cremate according to our daily limits per day at this branch,” said Smith.
National Funeral Directors Association of Southern African managing director Elsabé Basilio said they have written to the Western Cape government for intervention.
“I highlighted the major issue that our members are facing daily in assisting bereaved families with the cremation of their loved ones,” she said.
Local Government MEC Anton Bredell said they were working with the industry to find short- and long term solutions.
City mayco member for community service and health, Patricia van der Ross, said they were aware of a backlog at the Maitland facility due to only one cremator being in operation. She said a night shift was in place to deal with the backlog.