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Durban - Mourning families may be forced to fork out more than double the expected cremation tariff over the next two weeks at alternative crematoriums as gas supplies at the municipal Mobeni Heights facility run dry.

KwaZulu-Natal Funeral Directors Association representative, Dhayalan Moodley, told the Daily News on Monday that the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) was not being supplied because the municipality had allegedly not paid its supplier. He said this would severely hamper the crematorium’s function.

“We’ve been plagued by one problem after another over the past year, but the issue of gas supply is the most recent challenge.”

Moodley said while the Chatsworth facility had continued to accept bookings, they had cut back on operations substantially.

“But this is not just because of the gas shortages, but because one of the two furnaces there has not been working in over a year. They used to do between eight and 10 cremations a day, but now they don’t do more than four.”

The association’s chairman, Logan Chetty, said mourners now had to transport their loved ones from Chatsworth to the Clare Estate crematorium, or other facilities.

This had led to a spike in funeral costs.

“At Mobeni Heights, the total cost of a cremation is R730, while the cost of a single cremation at Durban (Stellawood) Cemetery costs between R1 200 and R2 000. The Verulam Cemetery charges R1 000. Transportation from Chatsworth also has to be accounted for, as well as booking the hall,” he said.

Chetty continued: “This is going to cripple families who are already struggling to put food on the table. Of course, they will try to make a plan with the help of undertakers and relatives, but someone will still lose out.”

One of the undertakers taking strain is Clive Moodley of Pinetown Funeral Services.

“We now have to take all our clients to Clare Estate. Aside from the cost, we have to budget two extra hours owing to the distance and traffic,” he said.

He said that, because of the cultural norms and practices of Indians (who form the largest part of their clientele), the gas shortage could not be allowed to delay the cremation process.

“It’s not like they can say, ‘Well, we’ll wait until we have enough money, and then we’ll lay our loved one to rest.’ It has to be done as soon as possible.”

Moodley said: “I don’t charge for transportation where I can, but that’s not always sustainable because of the distances.”

He said that some of his clients had taken out funeral policies with his company, and his having to pay the extra money in Clare Estate had also added to the burden.

Municipality spokeswoman, Tozi Mthethwa, confirmed the gas shortages.

“The municipality is currently in the process of paying Oryx Energy Pty Limited for gas supplied to the crematorium. Due to the supply chain management process that needs to be followed, there has been a delay in the payment. However, the process is under way and the gas will be made available to the crematorium in due course.”

She said after various delays had been experienced while trying to repair the broken furnace at the crematorium, a report had been submitted to the city’s exco for permission for the procurement of a new furnace by bypassing normal tender procedures.

“It is envisaged that this process will be completed before the end of 2014.”

Mthethwa said: “The municipality would like to apologise to the community affected by this delay and assures them that this is being treated as a matter of urgency. In the meantime, we encourage those wishing to cremate their loved ones to utilise Stellawood and Clare Estate Crematoria.”

But this is not the first time cemeteries have experienced problems.

In 2011, similar effects were felt in the city because of a nationwide shortage of the gas.

Three crematoriums (Mobeni Heights, Verulam and Stellawood), which used gas, shut their doors.

Those who had lost loved ones also suffered a knock last year when the municipality announced a 5 percent price hike for cremations.

It cited escalating gas, electricity and maintenance costs.

Daily News