Grave shortage at crisis point

2013-06-14 00:00

THE dire shortage of burial space in Pietermarizburg has finally reached crisis point.

At Mountain Rise cemetery, burials are taking place in the road reserves. And Azalea in Imbali — the only other municipal cemetery that was operational — closed last month, eventually having run out of space.

Residents there protested that the burial area was encroaching on land that had been reserved for grazing and housing.

Yesterday, Msunduzi executive committee (Exco) members heard that ironically, the only cemetery currently being used was an unofficial one in Willowfoutain.

In 1978, the commuity in the area set aside land for a cemetery and to date there are some 4 000 grave sites there. The community has since asked the municipality to formally recognise the cemetery and get it legally established.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi told Exco that they had hoped the Hollingwood cemetery, near Sobantu, would have been ready to avert the crisis.

However, this project was delayed because nearby residents waged a protracted protest, wanting the land for housing. Eventually a compromise was reached with some land set aside for housing. When the project eventually got under way it became embroiled in a tender dispute. A bidder for the work disputed the awarding of the contract to another company.

Nkosi said they decided to redo the entire tender process as this would cause less of a delay. He said to avoid a similar controversy, they outsourced the awarding of the contract to experts outside the municipality. “I am happy to say that the process is on track and the work should be starting shortly,” Nkosi said.

He warned Exco that they must begin looking now for other available sites for cemeteries as Hollingwood could fill up in 10 years. “You have to start planning for life beyond Hollingwood,” added Nkosi.

The DA’s Bill Lambert said when he became a councillor about 20 years ago, the shortage of space in the cemeteries was on the agenda then.

He appealed for better care of the cemeteries, saying he had just returned from Belgium and one of the tourist attractions he visited there was a cemetery.

Mayor Chris Ndlela agreed with him, saying that “in some of our cultures there was no holier place than a cemetery and they needed to be taken care of and maintained”. Ndlela mentioned the historic Georgetown cemetery that was in a neglected state.

Exco supported a recommendation that cemetery experts SRK Consulting be asked to explore whether any more burial space could be found at Azalea and Sinathing cemeteries, which had also been closed.

Nkosi added that all cemeteries in the municipality would have to be fenced to be in compliance with legisation that governs cemeteries.

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