More cremation woes

2013-08-29 00:00

HAS Msunduzi Municipality been duped into buying dud cremators?

These were the suspicions of funeralgoers witnessing the first cremation in one of the new machines when the door malfunctioned.

Barely days after two spanking new cremators were installed at a cost of over R4 million, and after just two cremations were carried out, both are not working. In the one cremator a door broke and in the other a motor blew up.

For city undertakers, this is a case of déjà vu. In 2007, the previous council installed a brand-new cremator and barely weeks later it also malfunctioned. For them, the problem was simply a matter of municipal officials refusing to learn from past mistakes.

The undertakers claim that in 2007 an incinerator instead of a cremator was installed. “Incinerators are used to burn such matter as medical waste and have to be adapted to be used as cremators. Did you see the name of the latest company that was awarded the tender to install the cremators? It is the SA Incinerator Company. Now, why are we going to an incinerator company when there are well-known cremator companies in the country?” asked an undertaker who did not want to be named.

The on-going saga of the malfunctioning cremators gave rise to the formation of the Mountain Rise Crematorium and Cemeteries Concerned Citizens’ Committee (MCCCCC) in January 2012. An incredulous MCCCCC chairperson, advocate Ranjiv Nirghin, said this was not supposed to happen.

“We were told that our cremation problems were finally going to be solved with these brand-new, state-of-the-art cremators. Maintenance was not going to be an issue because the company had a plant in Howick and repairs would be carried out in a minimum amount of time. We’ve now been told that the latest repairs will take up to five weeks,” Nirghin said.

He added that the MCCCCC would be holding an urgent meeting tonight to look at this latest crisis. “When we enquired about the specifications of the cremators we were told that the municipality was going to use experts to draw up the terms of reference.”

Nirghin said in light of the current situation the municipality needed to name these experts and reveal the specifications and whether these were met.

“We also need to know what type of background checks on the company were carried out, and whether it had a proven track record in the business of building cremators. If nothing else, this may help put this sorry saga to rest,” he added.

James Fairbrass, MD of the SA Incinerator Company, insisted yesterday that he had provided cremators and not incinerators for the Mountain Rise Crematorium.

The company has no other cremators installed in South Africa. Fairbrass said the company built cremators for export.

He sent a letter to Msunduzi municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi explaining the problem, which was presented to a full sitting of council yesterday. According to Fairbrass, the problem lay with a blockage in the chimney. He said when the company tendered for the cremator they opted to use the existing brick chimney.

“I believe this is the cause of the malfunction of the cremators, as it is constructing the flow of air within the cremators. This has also caused a secondary problem in that the air flow in the chimney ducting is moving slower as well, allowing the chimneys to overheat,” he said.

According to Fairbrass, “no major problems exist”. He said the situation will be solved by building new chimneys on top of each of the cremators. He also said his company would harden the front doors of the one cremator to ensure a tighter fit. He expected the work to cost about R620 000 and said that in the interests of community and customer relations, his company would foot the bill.

Nirghin said there should be no question about the South African Incinerator Company paying for the repairs. “The public were told at the handover of the new cremators that they came with a five-year guarantee and a maintenance plan.”

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