Frustration as Mobeni Heights crematorium closes again due to gas issue
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Durban - Frustrated ratepayers, political leaders and funeral directors have called on eThekwini Municipality to once again fix the Mobeni Heights Crematorium.
After numerous incidents, they have questioned the municipality’s ability to effectively run the facility.
For over a decade, the furnaces at the crematorium lay idle. In 2019, the Office of the Public Protector wrote to the municipality asking that it address the issues at the crematorium.
The public protector instructed the city to install a new furnace before 2020.
In April last year, a R3.5 million furnace arrived in Durban via America. However, installation only started in September that year.
In February this year, the crematorium was opened. However, within hours, it had to close due to problems. It reopened for a few weeks, but as of March 25th, it was closed because the city had not secured gas.
A letter directed to stakeholders by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture said: “We apologise that the facility will be temporarily out of service till further notice and we regret any inconvenience caused to the ratepayers of eThekwini Municipality. The city is working tirelessly to address this urgent matter.”
However, residents, funeral directors and even political leaders are upset.
Clive Moodley of Pinetown Funeral Services said: “We can scream and shout from the top of hills but still we won’t be heard. If the municipality is not capable of handling the running of the Mobeni Heights Crematorium, it should either ask for help or tell us. Gas for the furnaces is supplied locally, so there should not be a gas issue.
“I am not sure if it is negligence on someone’s part or if they waited for the gas to finish before looking for more. It’s frustrating because something like gas is a simple thing and it’s delaying the running of the crematorium again.”
Nersan Chetty, from Merebank Funeral Services, said: “This really affects poor people in the community. It costs R800 for a family to cremate a loved one at Mobeni Heights Crematorium and R2 500 to cremate at Clare Estate Crematorium. For a poor family, R800 is a lot of money. Imagine what a struggle it is for them when Mobeni Heights is closed and they have to find over R2 000 to do a send-off.”
He said Mobeni Heights was also central for families in Chatsworth, Umkomaas and Umzinto.
“It’s cheaper to travel to Mobeni Heights for cremation but during the years that Mobeni Heights was closed, families from as far as Umkomaas had no choice but to travel to Clare Estate. Given the cost, not everyone that would have liked to attend did so. It’s totally unfair on families.”
Chetty said his father Logan, who died last year, had approached the municipality with a view of the city allowing the funeral directors association to run the facility. However, nothing came of the request.
“My father was very passionate about this crematorium and he fought for it for years. He is the one that reported the city to the public protector and that’s when the city was forced to do something.”
Dhayalan Moodley, a member of the Funeral Directors Association, said: “Since opening the facility over six weeks, this is the third time the crematorium has been closed indefinitely. It is a real shame.”
Muzi Hlengwa, the president of the National Funeral Practitioners Association, said if the city could not maintain the crematorium it should privatise it.
“It seems these guys are not capable of running this service. It doesn’t make sense that you just open and have gas, and all of a sudden, there’s no gas. We are not pleased and we cannot continue like this. There is no use having control of this facility but keeping it closed. Rather privatise it.”
Mubarak Mohammed, the president of the Havenside Ratepayers Association and deputy president of the Chatsworth Civic Association, said the issue was serious.
“They made us wait 10 years for the crematorium and now just when it opened, it is closed again. We have a proper functioning crematorium at Clare Estate. The city should consult the guys there on how to run its facility.”
Poobalan Govender, the president of the Shallcross Ratepayers Association, said he had proposed in 2019 that the facility be a public-private partnership.
“If we privatise the crematorium, the costs go up. But if the city enters into a public/private partnership, the cost to cremate remains low. However, nothing came off my proposal. The current state of affairs is just another example of poor service delivery.”
Derrick Govender, the vice-chairperson of the Crossmoor Ratepayers Association said: “The majority of Chatsworth residents are poor. Mobeni Heights is the closest place to get cremations done and the cheapest. The municipality is doing a disservice to residents.”
Selvan Govender, an IFP member from Chatsworth, said he was disappointed.
“The municipality calls for people to do cremations because there is no burial space. However, it fails to keep the facility running. Recently, our member Les Govender brought up the issue in council but was met with silence. It spoke volumes on the city's attitude towards the crematorium.”
Tony Govender, ward 70 councillor in Chatsworth, said the city was in charge of a R50 billion budget but could not get gas for a furnace.
“It’s a joke. The fact that they cannot even sort out their gas contracts and ran out of gas shows how incompetent they are.”
Msawakhe Mayisela, eThekwini spokesperson said: “Mxolisi Kaunda, the mayor, convened a special meeting where he gave an instruction to the effect that the crematorium commences its operations as soon as possible. We apologise for the inconvenience caused.”