Meeting to address PMB crematorium crisis

2012-01-23 00:00

FIRST it was the ongoing saga of malfunctioning cremators, then over the festive season a new problem arose — no staff to carry out cremations. For a group of local residents, this was the last straw and it was about time something was done to address the Msunduzi Municipality’s management of the Mountain Rise Crematorium.

On Wednesday, January 25 at 7 pm, a public meeting will be held at the Aryan Hall in Khan Road to discuss the crematorium crisis. The meeting has been called by the Midland’s Hindu Society — an umbrella body of Hindu religious organisations in the city, and the Msunduzi Rates Forum.

Sherry Mahabeer, public relations officer for the Midland’s Hindu Society, said they had to do something as they were inundated by complaints about the crematoria.

“A time of bereavement should be one of care and consideration for the families who have experienced the loss of a loved one. However, residents of Pietermaritzburg have had to endure the added stress of having to deal with malfunctioning or non-functioning crematoria,” Mahabeer said.

She said the result was that the grieving families, already under financial strain, have had to bear the added costs of having the remains of their loved ones moved at the eleventh hour to Durban to be cremated.

“In some cases, people have had to endure the traumatic experience of having to remove half-burned bodies and have the process completed elsewhere. This is not acceptable …” Mahabeer said.

City undertakers have welcomed the public meeting. They also want to put their side of the story to the public. They are irate that some municipal officials have allegedly told grieving families that it is the undertakers who sabotage the process so that they can get more money by taking the bodies to Durban.

The undertakers say when cremations are cancelled at the last minute, they have to bear the extra cost of having the cremation done elsewhere.

They say it is not good for business, especially when costs have been negotiated, to add extra charges that arise not of their or the families’ making.

Undertakers said they have tried to be part of the solution. A few years ago, at their own expense, they took Msunduzi councillors and officials on a fact-finding visit to well run crematoria at Clare Estate and Mobeni in Durban.

The visit took place shortly after a brand-new cremator was installed at the chapel in the cemetery and started giving problems within months of being installed. At the time the undertakers warned that an incinerator rather than a cremator had been installed.

At least two city undertakers stopped using the Mountain Rise crematorium more than a year ago. One funeral parlour, that does mainly Christian burials, has all cremations done in Port Shepstone or Durban. However, for Hindu burials, family members have to carry out certain rituals around the pyre and it is inconvenient and costly for the funeral entourage to go to another city.

Mahabeer urged the public to attend Wednesday’s meeting.

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