The crematorium saga continues

2013-12-20 00:00

THE use of calves as guinea pigs in a cremation test showed nothing but disrespect for, and insensitivity towards, the beliefs of Hindus, who also use the Mountain Rise Crematorium (The Witness, December 5).

For years, the crematorium has been plagued with problems, ranging from an obvious lack of expertise to substandard maintenance by the Msunduzi Municipality and theft and vandalism of crematorium equipment for sale as scrap metal.

After years of complaints from the Hindu community in the main, the apathetic municipality eventually agreed to refurbish the crematorium at a cost of R6 million. This was intended to be the solution.

Babs Sithapersad of the Mountain Rise Crematorium and Cemeteries Concerned Citizens Committee (MCCCCC) often expressed concern at the indifference shown by council officials from Community Services, who showed little commitment by not attending regularly and calling meetings. Sithapersad advocated that the greater the participation in a critical matter like the crematorium upgrade, the greater the success would be. Regretfully, the input and official plans for the crematorium submitted by the MCCCCC were ignored. Initially, the odour from the cremations entered the hall. PR councillor Manilal Inderjit was made aware of this. Then, the cremator doors malfunctioned, and finally it was discovered that the chimneys had to be increased in height. A skilled service provider with a good track record would have known that the latter needed to be sorted out prior to completion.

Inderjit expressed his displeasure at the tactlessness of cremating calves. He conceded to some very salient issues, inter-alia that departments worked in isolation. The councillor has not admitted to anything new, for that is exactly how local government operates in South Africa. This lack of consultation manifested itself in the way in which the council ignores the MCCCCC most of the time. At national level, the disregard for public opinion, coupled with arrogance, are the cause of service-delivery protests. Inderjit witnessed first hand dysfunctional swimming pools and the death of the cemeteries. A cleansing ceremony, as advanced by Inderjit, is not the solution; neither is disciplinary action. The superciliousness of our failing municipality should be addressed instead. In essence, a cleansing of another type is crucial. We gather together as ratepayers and call for the removal of cadres and inefficient staff in the municipality, a vote of no confidence in Community Services, including the Parks and Recreation Department, and a transparent inquiry into the new crematoria, in which the MCCCCC must be present.

As long as our backs are bent, the municipality will ride us, so ratepayers need to get together and demonstrate that enough is enough. The problems at the crematorium have just surfaced and more will come. Again, the “experts” at city hall failed ratepayers by not vetting the service provider. It would be interesting to know if the service provider has installed crematoria elsewhere in the province, and whether Inderjit went to Gauteng to look at equipment. In the past, the late Pops Chetty took the initiative and visited crematoriums that functioned well — an indication of an obligation to have a functioning crematorium.

A fresh starting point would be to haul the service provider over the proverbial pyre, as it is very apparent that he or she was obviously not the best choice. The city officials, together with the MCCCCC, must drive to Clare Estate and engage with the Clare Estate Umgeni Hindu Crematorium Society and allow them the opportunity to build capacity with our team. We are in dire need of lateral development as everyday expensive failures echo this. Additionally, the Ladysmith Crematorium functions excellently. The self-important ANC-dominated council lacks an inquiring mind and ratepayers are continuously made to pay for council’s lack of knowledge. If the Community Services Portfolio Committee engaged sincerely with the MCCCCC, Hindus would not be facing such a sensitive dilemma today. The two cremators side by side deny bereaved families a right to privacy during last rites. This was not supported by the MCCCCC. Northern-areas residents are justly demoralised about the ANC. We are faced with exorbitant tariffs for utilities and arguably high rates, while essential service delivery, which is poor, is seen as a privilege by the Msunduzi Municipality. The DA is fully mindful of the suffering of the poor in the northern areas. Hence its strong opposition to dubious donations and unreasonably high tariffs. The northern areas’ electorate need never forget this.

• Jay Jugwanth is a retired educationist and a community activist. 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.

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