MEC for Health Dr Bandile Masuku and members of the Gauteng Forensic Pathology Services joined the City’s chief operations officer James Murphy to inspect the state of readiness of a cemetery in Tshwane. Picture: James Mahlokwane
MEC for Health Dr Bandile Masuku and members of the Gauteng Forensic Pathology Services joined the City’s chief operations officer James Murphy to inspect the state of readiness of a cemetery in Tshwane. Picture: James Mahlokwane

WATCH: Covid-19 mass graves take shape in Tshwane

By James Mahlokwane Time of article published Jul 8, 2020

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Pretoria - Covid-19 graves began taking shape in the north of Pretoria as the City of Tshwane prepared itself for all eventuality including mass funerals, in the event that the capital city lost a lot of people.

A tractor started digging graves in a line at the Honingnestkrans Cemetery where MEC for Health Dr Bandile Masuku and members of the Gauteng Forensic Pathology Services joined the City’s chief operations officer James Murphy to inspect the state of readiness at the reserved facility. 

The purpose of the visit was to ensure that the City would not be caught by surprise in the event that it finds itself confronted by scores of Covid-19 deaths since the number of confirmed cases keeps rising.

Murphy said at the moment the City would have fewer deaths but those people needed to be buried safely within three days and with the numbers still expected to peak, the City has begun burial preparations in all its seven regions.

This Tshwane region two cemetery is expected to hold about 24 000 graves but only a limited number of graves will be dug to avoid ruin from rain while pathologists wait for bodies to be buried.

A tractor digs graves in a line at the Honingnestkrans Cemetery in the north of Pretoria. Video: James Mahlokwane


Murphy said burial sites in the City were already being utilised due to numerous other deaths that are not Covid-19 related, making it necessary for the City to start preparing itself for any and all eventuality.

Masuku who has been travelling across the province to monitor preparedness in all municipalities, said it was unfortunate that while on this process, he was already told of more Covid-19 deaths.

He said: “This is to check how we will be able to cater in the event that we’ll be having a whole lot of people passing on in a short space of time. All our municipalities have been acquiring more in terms of the land that they’ll need for burial.

“It is an uncomfortable subject and one of the things that I would like to say is that we still have a good opportunity to manage how the peak treats us.” 

He was happy that the City of Tshwane was well prepared for any eventuality even if it finds itself as the hotspot in Gauteng.

He said stats showed that people between the ages of 50 and 80 have been the most vulnerable. 

To make matters worse, there has been a 30% increase in the number of deaths in Gauteng that are not Covid-19 related and that certainly makes this pandemic an added burden in the burial sector.

According to Murphy, geomatic information revealed that, in the general, region one has 12 000 available graves in Ga-Rankuwa, and 92 000 in Soshanguve and Klipkruisfonteing. 

Region three has 60 000 in Zandfontein and only 4 000 in Lotus Garden, and region four has 10 000 in Olievenhoutbosch and only 2 000 in Laudium.  

Region five has 1020 in Refilwe, 1050 in Cullinan and 500 in Rayton, and region six has 32 000 in Hatherley and 40 000 in Pretoria East.

Region seven has 14 000 in Bronkhorstspruit and another 14 000 within other parts of the region. 

Gauteng as a province has over 1.5 million graves that are available, with the biggest being in Johannesburg and expected to hold 200 000 Covid-19 graves.

Murphy said that in the event that things become very bad the City may have to hold mass funerals, it may not be possible for families to opt to bury their loved ones in graves of their choice because the government may prioritise stopping the spread of the virus to save lives.

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's  #Coronavirus trend page.
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za

Pretoria News

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