Durban’s grave sites dilemma

2010-11-19 15:16

Durban is about to run out of space to bury its dead, said the eThekwini Municipality’s head of cemeteries, Thembinkosi Ngcobo.

Fifty-nine of the 60 cemeteries in Durban were already full, said Ngcobo at a discussion on the crisis.

“It is a huge dilemma. It has to be addressed quickly to avoid a disaster. We need to do something now,” he said.

He said the municipality had decided not to establish new cemeteries but introduce alternative burial methods.

These included vertical burials, cremation, freeze drying and the recycling of graves.

The new proposed methods have been fiercely criticised by the public. People argue that they will have an adverse impact on their cultural and religious practices and they have proposed that unproductive farms near the city be bought and used as burial sites.

The city is not supporting the idea not only because it is expensive to buy land and maintain graves but also because most of the vacant land is earmarked for development purposes.

It costs an estimated R20 million to develop a new cemetery and an extra R2 million to maintain each one on a monthly basis.

“People must understand that the issue of grave sites is competing with much-needed development to create jobs. There is no space even for development,” said Ngcobo.

He said the topography of Durban’s west was mountainous and unsuitable for burying people.

The workshop was also attended by academics, cultural experts and religious leaders.

Professor Sihawu Ngubane, the dean of human sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said it was important for the municipality to try to find more space.

“African people have a lot of respect for the dead. They regard them as messengers between them and God. That is why they visit graves to communicate with them,” he said.

Ngcobo said the city understood people’s concerns but it had no option but to implement new methods.

Most people who spoke at the meeting were against the recycling of graves. Bophiwe Nxumalo said the city needed to consider allowing people to bury their loved ones in their yards.

“I have been told that people are allowed to do that in other countries. If a person decides to move, he or she can exhume the remains and move with them,” she said.

Edward Shembe of the Shembe Church said they were totally against cremation.

Some people urged government to intensify the fight against HIV-Aids as it was contributing to the increasing number of deaths.

Perfect Malimela said his church encouraged people to opt for cremations.

“When we saw that the city was running out of sites we sat down as a church and discussed it extensively. It was then decided that people who wanted to be cremated should be encouraged to do so,” he said.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.