Politicians idle on tackling shortage of land for burials out of fear of losing popular support

17 July 2017 - 17:46
By Loyiso Sidimba
Graveyard. File photo.
Image: iStock graveyard cemetery grave Graveyard. File photo.

Politicians are sitting idle and not tackling the shortage of land for burials out of fear of marginalising communities and losing popular support.

This is according to the SA Cemeteries Association (Saca) and the SA Local Government Association (Salga)‚ who will host the continent’s first Pan African Cemeteries and Crematoria Conference in Durban next month.

“Progressive change is delayed by inertia as political leadership delay in addressing the approaches that could lead to sustaining the services out of fear of marginalising communities and losing popularity‚” reads the invitation to the conference.

Announcing the conference to the country’s 234 municipalities through a circular earlier this month‚ Salga chief executive Xolile George said cemeteries were one of the biggest challenges in local government.

“The challenges in this regard range from budget constraints to the allocation of suitable land for burial‚” George said.

He said the conference will address “the current state of cemeteries in South African cities including ways to mitigate challenges relating to land availability as well as the economic impact of burials versus cremations”.

George encouraged municipalities to attend the four-day conference.

Organisers said they have invited experts and authorities from Nigeria‚ Ethiopia‚ Egypt‚ China and the US.

Saca chairman Pepe Dass said the best way forward to deal with land shortage would be to find a method that utilises the least land for burials.

He said cities across the continent were overpopulated and also struggling to find burial space.

Dass said while it was important for the lack of land for burials to be resolved finding land for the living was another challenge that should also be tackled.

The City of Johannesburg has 28 cemeteries that are at full capacity including Soweto’s Avalon Cemetery.

In November‚ the municipality opened the 400-hectare Olisfantsvlei Cemetery across the N12 highway from Avalon.

Olisfantsvlei replaced Avalon‚ according to Johannesburg City Parks.

The new cemetery‚ which has a lifespan of 70 years or 800‚000 burials‚ was built over five phases and will serve the south-western parts of the city.

According to the City of Johannesburg‚ cremations cost between R392 for an infant and R1‚231 for a corpse above 120kg.

Depending on the cemetery‚ a burial fee from R700 for a child and up to over R5‚000 for a high profile person is charged.

In Durban‚ the eThekwini Metro grants families a 10-year exclusive right for their relative to remain interred in a single grave site.

This can be renewed for another 10 years and failure to renew the grave can lead to it being recycled.

- SowetanLIVE