No washing at funerals

2015-03-17 00:00

HINDU residents of Pietermaritzburg are up in arms after months of waiting for lavatory and washroom facilities at the Mountain Rise crematorium to be improved.

Since the middle of last year, the ­crematorium has been left without proper lavatory facilities after a municipality-appointed contractor demolished the interior in the process of renovating the site.

To date, the renovation has not been ­completed.

What is left is a shell of a building with bags of hardened cement sitting unused in what used to be the toilets.

Grass and weeds have sprouted through the concrete floors of its exterior, and water has seeped through the broken or non-existent ceilings, causing damage to the walls.

After months of waiting, members of Pietermaritzburg’s Hindu community have raised their concerns with the Msunduzi Municipality, and now hope the project will be completed as promised at the end of April.

One resident, Rajen Naidoo, who attended a funeral there last year, described the situation as “outrageous”.

“When you attend a funeral after a long journey, there are no ablution facilities available, which makes things very difficult if you’re from out of town.

“We [Hindus] are the main group of people who use the crematorium and it is sad to see that the issue is being neglected,” he said.

Naidoo also alleged that the cremation burners are in fact incinerators used to dispose of animal carcasses.

Another resident, who wished not to be named, said it was a “great disappointment” that the situation had persisted for so long.

“In our religion [Hinduism], it is customary to wash yourself after funeral rituals.

“Is this not a violation of our religious rights?

“Why has this not been made a priority and been left for so long?” the man asked.

Ashwin Trikamjee, head of the South ­African Hindu Maha Sabah, said their organisation would make a representation to provincial authorities if the problem was not resolved urgently.

“It is unbelievable and unacceptable that basic facilities are unavailable at such an ­important venue. Immediately after a cremation, it is obligatory to cleanse yourself with water,” Trikamjee said.

Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said they had experienced problems with the contractor appointed to do the upgrades and now need to “follow due process”.

“In terms of compliance with the respective legislation, toilet facilities for the disabled, including a ramp, are being constructed and will be complete by April 30 in terms of the specified contract duration,” Mafumbatha said.

“The toilets will also incorporate a baby-changing counter within the facility... a budget has been allocated under the Cemetery Trust Fund and the relevant committee has been advised of the funds allocated towards the upgrade of the cemetery or crematorium facility”.

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