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Johannesburg - The City of Johannesburg (CoJ) on Thursday urged residents to consider alternative burial options due to the lack of space in the future.

"There are various alternative burial options available to people, especially for families with existing burial locations. These include reduction burials, which involve using a smaller coffin for remains in order for more room to be created for additional burial space in the same location," member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for Community Development, Nonhlanhla Sifumba said.

CoJ said that the majority of people still opted for private graves for burial, which was unsustainable within cities such as Johannesburg which had one of the highest amount of burials in Gauteng because of migration patterns.

"All major cities within South Africa have to find new ways of burying, in order to be in a position to continue fulfilling their obligation of providing sufficient burial space for coming generations."

The city said Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) was the custodian of Cemeteries and Crematoria in the City of Johannesburg, which had the responsibility of ensuring that it could provide burial space for the immortal remains of Johannesburg’s residents.  

"Only four of the 38 cemeteries managed by JCPZ are available for new burials, with burial space for the next 50-60 years."

Sifumba said another option which the City was seeing greater interest in, ideal for couples and families, was second burials in the same grave. 

"According to City bylaws, people may opt to bury additional family members in the same grave. In fact, up to three family members may use the same grave, allowing family members to be laid to rest in one burial location."

CoJ said this could ensure that families were together, even in death, making it easier for those left behind to visit them all at the same time.

“This option is much more affordable, is environmental-friendly, and affords the family the opportunity to pay their respects to loved ones at the same gravesite”, Sifumba said.

The city said the adoption of the second burial method wasn’t against the many African cultures and the practice thereof was already being adopted more and more by South Africans.

"For instance, 2379 second burials were considered in the 2014/15 financial year, and this number has now grown to more than 4 000 during the 2017/18 financial year. It is estimated that an average of 20% of all burials in Johannesburg are reopenings."

CoJ said another option could be people using mausoleum burials, which were above ground burials in a tomb or chamber that allowed for families to be buried together within the structure. Moreover, there was the option of cremation, which some cultures had adopted as a preferred option and scattering or placing the ashes in a memorial wall to commemorate the life of the deceased. 

The City called on religious leaders and funeral directors to continuously engage bereaved families about alternatives to enable them to provide dignified burial options for loved ones.

African News Agency (ANA)