Mass graves for Durban’s dead

2010-09-05 09:10

Durban is piloting a controversial plan to exhume human remains

from cemetries and rebury them in mass graves to make way for new burials.


The plan by the eThekwini municipality will be implemented over the

next three months. It will see the council’s parks and cemeteries department dig

up nearly 5?000 graves at Durban’s Loon Road to be reburied in a single mass

grave in a corner of the cemetery at a cost of R900?000.


The space will be “recycled” for future burials, but the council

will not allow families to erect headstones, to reduce the space taken up by

graves.


The council’s 66 cemeteries are full or nearing capacity and the

council does not have land available for new graves.


The motion to recycle the ­cemetery was passed by a full council –

167 of 170 councillors voted in favour of the motion – sitting in October

2007.


As is required by the KwaZulu-Natal Cemeteries and Crematoria Act

No. 12 of 1996, the city obtained permission from the ­local government and

traditional affairs department to ­exhume the remains.


Although the decision was taken three years ago, the council only

allocated the budget for the project this financial year.


Authorities are adamant that they have little other choice.


Ngcobo last week said the council followed all the requirements and

advertised and received public comments on the plan. “We received no objections

from the families of those ­buried there,” Ngcobo added.


The ANC and the IFP voted in ­favour of the motion.


Only the African Christian Democratic Party’s (ACDP’s) three

councillors opposed the motion.


Nomvuso Shabalala, an ANC councillor and chairperson of the health

and safety committee, emphasised that it was a ­pilot project.


“If it succeeds and people ­accept it, it will be used in other

areas. But if it doesn’t and there is an outcry we will abandon it and look at

other options,” said ­Shabalala.


Thembi Nzuza, the IFP’s chief whip, said: “We were told that one

­alternative was to bury people upright. We felt this was a better option

because it would free space so that more graves could be created.”


The ACDP’s Cyril George last week said the party was against this

move because of lack of proper consultation.


The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s head of African Studies,

Professor Sihawu Ngubane, said many people would oppose ­exhuming bodies and

burying them in one mass grave.


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