Paying a pretty penny for a private grave

2015-04-12 18:17

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Some are willing to fork out extra to be buried next to struggle icons like Joe Slovo (grave pictured)

Philosopher Publilius Syrus famously said “we are all equal in the presence of death”.

But for those with enough money fora spot in a private burial ground, some are more equal than others.

Burial space in South Africa is dwindling rapidly. Legislation to deal with the situation is quite controversial, and the removal of bodies for new graves is a specific area of concern, particularly for Zulu and Xhosa people who express a traditional reverence for the dead.

Private cemeteries often present an appealing alternative.

But of course, exclusive space is not the only reason some opt for a private cemetery. Those accustomed to the finer things in life want the finer things in death as well. The prospect of an exclusive spot in a well-manicured private cemetery is simply to die for.

But it won’t come cheap. At the private Fourways Memorial Park, a “general memorial” gravesite costs R34?000, and if you want eight members buried on a family estate, you’ll have to fork out a whopping R240?000.

This is before the more tempting trimmings, such as tree memorials or wall remembrances.

Other private cemetery firms, such as the Avalon Group, offer a different kind of exclusivity. At the Soweto “branch”, would-be patrons will have the chance to be buried on the same site as struggle icons Joe Slovo and Hector Pieterson.

Many municipalities have welcomed the creation of private cemeteries, because they ease the strain on already stretched public burial spaces.

That said, with ever more land being bought up by private entities, even those without funeral cover or extra money to burn are being forced to go in this direction – and it’s not clear what the official plan is to create more public burial space countrywide.

It seems that, whether the reason is preserving the sanctity of the gravesite or just wanting to be separate from the commoners (even in death), private cemeteries are here to stay.

Until their space runs out too, that is.

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