PMB faces shortage of graves

2011-06-17 00:00

BURIALS at the Ethembeni Memorial Park have been halted as the cemetery is reportedly full, the management of the cemetery has said.

Earlier this week Mpinvestfour Investments Pty Ltd, the owners of the cemetery, sent a communiqué to funeral homes around the city informing them that there will be no more burials at the cemetery until further notice. They said the cemetery has been closed.

The announcement has highlighted the delicate situation regarding the lack of burial space in the city.

Mountain Rise cemetery is also on the verge of being closed as it is almost full and burials there have now been limited to four per Saturday.

Since 1999 there have been several reports that Pietermaritzburg is running out of burial space. On numerous occasions the Msunduzi Municipality was said to be addressing the matter, but to date nothing concrete has been done.

Explaining the closure of Ethembeni Memorial Park, Allen van Dervin, one of the managers of the Mpinvestfour Investments, said the cemetery was not technically full .

He said the cemetery has a capacity of 60 000 graves with land available for another 40 000 graves. He said it is the first phase that had a capacity of 8 000 graves that has been closed because it is full.

Van Dervin explained that the company closed the cemetery because it is a property developer and not in the business of running cemeteries.

“We bought the land for property development and it came with the cemetery, so we decided to keep the cemetery operating until the first phase reached its capacity [of 8 000 graves]. We realised four months ago that that phase was almost full and we informed the funeral homes about its closure.

“The cemetery itself is not full. We could not continue operating a cemetery because we are not in cemetery management.

“We are suggesting that if the municipality is interested in taking over the running of the cemetery, it should contact us and we can talk about reopening it. If there is an agreement it could be opened within the next few weeks,” said Van Dervin.

Several funeral directors in the city said the lack of burial space is a serious problem that needs to be addressed quickly.

Keith Love, of Avbob funeral home, said the situation has reached a critical phase. “The only gravesite remaining is the municipal grounds in the Azalea area. The cemetery was licensed to take up to 60 000 graves and there is more land. The capacity could be increased to 100 000 graves provided that someone else takes over the running of the cemetery.”

Funeral directors said the municipality is yet to engage them about what it plans to do to resolve the shortage of burial spaces.

“The issue is not how much our business is suffering because of the shortage, but that the people in Pietermaritzburg have no place to be buried,” said Love.

“I also heard that Mountain Rise is about to close as there is no more burial space,” he added.

Love bemoaned the lack of co-operation by the municipality. “The municipality does not tell us anything, we only know that there was supposed to be a new cemetery.”

Percy Baker of Baker and Baker funeral services said his firm has opened a branch where it only does cremations “because there is no space to bury the dead people”.

Brian Zuma, spokesperson for Msunduzi Municipality, said the council did not know that Ethembeni had closed because it is a private cemetery.

He confirmed that Mountain Rise cemetery is almost full but said the municipality is planning a new graveyard in Hollingwood.

“There are no plans at present to either re-open graves for additional bodies or to recycle graves. Should we be able to proceed with Hollingwood these options won’t need to be considered,” Zuma said.

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