Funeral pyres mooted for KZN amid lack of crematoria

The feet of a victim killed in an earthquake are seen on a funeral pyre before the body is cremated along a river in Kathmandu, Nepal. I REUTERS

The feet of a victim killed in an earthquake are seen on a funeral pyre before the body is cremated along a river in Kathmandu, Nepal. I REUTERS

Published Jul 8, 2024


Durban — The Hindu community’s ongoing frustration with the lack of working crematoria in the province has prompted some to suggest that funeral pyres might be the way to go.

The suggestions on social media came after the Cedar Ridge crematorium in Cato Ridge was closed for repairs last week after a soot build-up caused a fire which burnt the ceiling. This means that people from as far as northern KwaZulu-Natal must now travel to Durban to perform the last rites for their loved ones as the Mountain Rise crematorium in Pietermaritzburg has not been functioning for more than a decade.

The chairperson of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha Advocate Ashwin Trikamjee said that while funeral pyres were not illegal in the country, it was generally avoided.

“However, in instances where it is conducted it requires open space away from urban areas and of course logs to create the pyre on which the body is placed. It is not illegal, we are aware that there are some parts of the country where they still use a pyre, e.g. Louis Trichardt.”

Trikamjee said that the lack of regular maintenance by local municipalities was to blame for the continuing problems at crematoriums.

“The Hindu communities throughout South Africa are constantly facing challenges, especially when the crematorium has a breakdown and the municipalities appear to show no interest whatsoever in sorting out the problem. The Hindu Community has indulged in self-help all these years but is also reaching a point of frustration and, in many instances, helplessness. We await the new government to assist in attending to the challenges facing the Hindu Community,” he said.

Trikamjee explained that an increasing number of South Africans now turned to cremations as a more convenient and economic option which also resolved the challenge of municipalities providing land for graveyards when burial was an option.

“The government needs to build more crematoriums. They are now being used by non-Hindus as well and more importantly they must make funding available to ensure regular maintenance of the crematoriums,” Trikamjee said.

For months the Hindu Dharma Trust (HDT) has been hard at work to get the Mountain Rise crematorium up and running again. The crematorium has been out of commission for the past 12 years causing great inconvenience and expense to the community. The HDT, a voluntary body formed by Hindu business people to serve the community has even enlisted the help of legal experts to have the matter resolved.

On its Facebook page it said that in January 2023 it had submitted a tender to the municipality to take over the running of the crematorium.

“No tender was awarded and the reason given was cancelled due to no acceptable tenders received. The HDT had met all the requirements, a feeble excuse was given that the HDT does not have the necessary experience to operate a crematorium. The HDT is now taking the municipality to the High Court for a speedy resolution.”

Meanwhile, the eThekwini municipality implemented a 50% tariff increase for cremations which came into effect this month. The cost for a cremation increased from R750 in 2022 to R1 800.

Spokesperson for the municipality Gugu Sisilana said the increase was necessary to cover the shortfall in operational costs, including the purchase of gas. Sisilana added that the Mobeni Heights crematorium would be undergoing an upgrade in the 2024/2025 financial year and would also be getting a new furnace.

Sunday Tribune