Traffic enforcement officers stopped a truck carrying as many as 106 bodies en route to Gqeberha for cremation on Saturday as local crematoriums are buckling under pressure.
Provincial Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell said the truck was stopped on the N2 near the Somerset Weigh bridge as part of routine control and was found to be overloaded.
He said the driver told the officials that he was transporting bodies to Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape.
Police and health officials were roped in to conduct investigations while the weigh bridge was closed temporarily.
The company that organised the transportation of the bodies said after the inspection by the authorities, another truck was organised, and both trucks were given a green light to continue the journey as all the coffins had the necessary paperwork.
Spokesperson Fredelene Knowles said the funeral undertakers were forced to transport bodies to Gqeberha as the local crematoriums were either closed or could not cope with the large volumes.
"Currently, both the Maitland and Durbanville crematoriums cannot take more bodies. Other crematoriums in the province cannot also take any bodies. We are also under pressure from families who want to get ashes at least within a week," Knowles said.
She said with each peak of the Covid-19 wave, funeral undertakers had experienced an increased demand for cremations.
She said families also faced a challenge with availability of burial sites.
"It can take up to a month to get a site and with the high costs of keeping a body at a funeral parlour, families are now opting for cremations," added Knowles.
Before Covid-19 Knowles would only transport bodies using a bakkie or mini-bus.
Due to high volumes, she now had to hire a truck every week, she said.
And with the cremations being done in Gqeberha the waiting period for ashes was only a week, Knowles said.
A funeral undertaker, Monray Adams said this week he made a booking for six bodies at the Durbanville crematorium and was told that he could only get space on 28 September.
"It's difficult - we have to phone around for space," Adams said.