Pietermaritzburg families burying their loved ones at home as cemeteries fill up

Mountain Rise cemetery has no space available. (Nompendulo Ngubane, GroundUp)
Mountain Rise cemetery has no space available. (Nompendulo Ngubane, GroundUp)

Pietermaritzburg families are resorting to burying their loved ones in their rural homes because the city is running out of space in cemeteries.

Mountain Rise Cemetery has no space available. Msunduzi municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the municipality was now using any available space including road reserves and pathways in the cemetery.

eThembeni Memorial Park, which is a private cemetery, is also full and can only bury people who purchased space earlier.

For families like the Ndlovus, the only option is the rural area. Lindiwe Ndlovu said both her parents were buried at Ethembeni Memorial Park in the 1990s but when her brother died in 2011 the family was informed that space in Pietermaritzburg was limited. She said they decided that from now on loved ones would be buried in Mpumuza, near Ashdown.

"Alternatives like cremation are against our culture," she said.

"In July 2015 my uncle was the first to be buried in the family grave site. It was a scary experience. We had never thought of a family graveyard. The family eventually got used to it. All our family members will be now laid to rest at home," said Ndlovu.

She said home burials were cheaper and graves were dug deeper.

According to the municipality, a grave space for an adult costs R1 120. A space for a child who is under 12 years costs R523 and for a stillborn baby R239.

The Zulu family has also decided to bury their loved ones on their ancestral land. Thabile Zulu said family members would now be buried in Sweetwaters near Hilton.

"With such a big piece of land, we won’t have to use any of the cemeteries. There is no space anyway," said Zulu.

Willowfontein resident Nhlakanipho Sithebe said most people in the area also did home burials.

"I'm from a family that values culture and tradition. It’s better when all of the family members are in the family graveyard. There are no issues of space and payments," said Sithebe.

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