City’s grave proposal

2013-08-22 00:00

A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to recycle graves in eThekwini’s cemeteries has been resurrected and its critics are spitting mad.

The eThekwini Metro on Tuesday said there was no space for new graves at the Tongaat and Verulam cemeteries.

This had prompted them to revisit plans to re-use graves older than 10 years, or those without tombstones.

The eThekwini Parks, Recreation and Culture Unit said the cemeteries had reached capacity and could not accommodate any new graves.

Municipal spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng said all unleased graves that were 10 years and older, that had no records or tombstones, would be available for re-use by the public as was the practice in all local cemeteries.

Families wishing to retain the rights to re-use or reserve a grave for future use, should apply for a 10-year lease of the grave, he said. Only families with graves under lease, that granted them the exclusive right of use, would be permitted to re-use the graves for burials of their loved ones. “People who do not intend to lease the grave where a family member has been buried and objects to its being re-used, should submit their objections in writing by no later than Monday, September 30,” he said.

However, Phepsile Maseko, the national co-ordinator of the Traditional Healers Organisation, said gravesites were sacred places. “Africans consult with the spirits of the ancestors in troubled times. In African religion it is believed that although the flesh decays, the bones remain alive and have the ability to see, hear, feel and experience a range of emotions.

“The problem here is that those who come up with by-laws are not considerate of the indigenous cultures of the African people,” said Maseko.

Her views were echoed by ethno-practitioner Dr Msindo Sithole, who said: “If graves were not important why then does our government continue spending money to bring back the bones of those who died in exile? Things have gone out of hand. African cultures are undermined.”

Tongaat Civic Association president Jeeva Pillay said the metro had failed the people as it had long known that cemeteries were going to be problematic.

“This is an emotional issue and there needs to be a debate about it. It is every taxpayer’s, resident’s and citizen’s right to be buried with dignity where they live.

“When digging graves the law should be going down more than six feet so that when another person is to be buried in the same grave, then they can dig six feet down,” said Pillay.

eThekwini Parks, Recreation and Culture Unit manager Thembinkosi Ngcobo yesterday told The Witness that since 2001 they had engaged communities to come up with ideas to help solve the problem.

“Since then we’ve had one response, which led to a local businessman buying land for a private cemetery,” said Ngcobo.

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