Phoenix Cemetery. Picture: Independent Media
Durban - The eThekwini Municipality is hoping that the two plots of land it is eyeing to acquire will solve its lack of burial space problems for the next 30 years.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said city officials had identified land suitable for cemeteries at Inanda Farm and 12747 Broadvale Farm.

“The Community Services Committee on October 19 authorised the heads of Parks, Recreation and Culture, and Real Estate Units, to enter into negotiations to acquire the land on the mentioned sites for the establishment of new cemeteries,” said Mthethwa.

Of the 65 municipal cemeteries, she said only 14 were still operational but they were filling up quickly.

During the inaugural Pan African Cemeteries and Crematoria Conference in August, it came to light that the shortage of burial space was a challenge not unique to eThekwini.

Thembinkosi Ngcobo, the city’s head of Parks and Recreation, earlier in the year said the department had few remaining unused burial sites and would be exhausted by the end of this year.

“We have 550 000 grave sites with more than 1.5 million remains. This means, on average, each one of these sites have three bodies in them because of an old tradition of reusing sites,” said Ngcobo.

“This tradition dates back to more than 50 years.

“For example, Chesterville cemetery is more than 60 years old. It has 35 000 grave sites but each site has three human remains. The practices allowed the cemetery to be operational longer than it would have been if no recycling was implemented. Reuse, therefore, has allowed the city to provide the service longer than we would have been able to without it,” said Ngcobo.

Ngcobo said that when the two cemeteries are operational, they will go a long way to solving the problem of burial space for at least the next 30 years.

“The two, if used to the fullest extent, must give us almost 60 000 more graves sites. This will postpone the problem for 30 more years but will not provide a permanent or sustainable solution. You will recall we are experiencing the current problem because the commission on religious, culture and language rights objected to the reuse of graves. Therefore, you will have to look for new land each time all sites are utilised,” said Ngcobo.

Furthermore, he said, there are only a few and small in size privately-owned cemeteries in the city and some can be found within eThekwini’s existing cemeteries. Unfortunately, he said, they are not contributing significantly to helping the problem of shortage of space.

Earlier, Jan Burger, of the South African Cemeteries Association, said people needed to explore alternative ways of disposing bodies.

“Other than cremation, we also now have new methods that people can use to dispose of human remains including resomation, dissolution, promession and green burial movement,” said Burger.

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