The country is fast running out of burial space and everybody needs to play a part in finding solutions to the crisis that is facing our country and the world. This was the general consensus by nearly 150 delegates who attended the two-day South African Cemeteries Association Conference 2013, which was hosted by the Municipality at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
 
The conference was attended by officials and Councillors from various municipalities, South African Local Government Association (SALGA), undertakers and other stakeholders. Among the issues that were discussed were sustainable cemetery and crematorium practices, indigent and pauper burial management, green infrastructure and the state of metro cemeteries.
 
The Mayor, Cllr James Nxumalo, said that dealing with the issue of cemetery space was difficult because cemeteries are competing with developments such as housing, agriculture and infrastructure. “It is really a competition between the dead and the living. As Government we have a responsibility to provide housing and other development infrastructure for our people to ensure that we have a sustainable City. On the other hand we have to meet the demand for cemeteries, as we are finding that some of our communities are still sceptical about alternative burial methods that have been identified.”
 
The other challenge identified with regards to establishing more cemeteries was the fact that not all land is suitable for burials. Before a cemetery can be established it is important to carry out the Environment Assessment Impact study to ensure the suitability of the land. It was also noted that once a piece of land has been used for burial purposes, that piece of land can never be used for any other purpose, which could have a negative impact on infrastructure development for future generations.
 
Possible solutions suggested by some of the presenters include; the establishment of cost effective and environmentally-friendly cemeteries and burials, cremations, use of bio-degradable coffins which should be regulated, education of communities about the challenges that are currently faced by municipalities as well as the benefits of reusing graves and employing a variety of cost-effective methods as alternatives to traditional burial.
 
Alan Buff, Manager of Parks at the City of Johannesburg said that some of challenges being faced by the Council were the theft of tombstones and other infrastructure, vandalism, illegal burials and lack of human resources. “The City of Johannesburg is also looking at alternatives to deal with the crisis, including the establishment of above-ground burials, reviewing tariffs, marketing of cremation which is a cheaper option and enhancing partnership and community participation,” he said.
Teboho Tsotetsi of Maluti-a-phofung Local Municipality in the Free State Province said that the Province had approximately 55 rural cemeteries and the Municipality was in the process of hiring a consultant to formalise these cemeteries.
 
 
The delegates all agreed that this global crisis had to be tackled head on and serious considerations need to be taken into account before decisions are made in addressing the situation. “Whatever decision we take now will have long lasting implications on future generations so it is critical to apply our minds and think strategically,” said the Deputy City Manager of Community and Emergency Services Cluster, Dr Musa Gumede.ate/
 
The delegates will tomorrow, 18/10/13, be taken on a tour to various cemeteries around the Municipal area to witness some of the strategies that the eThekwini Municipality has put in place to ensure that cemeteries are more sustainable.
 
For more information contact the Municipal Spokesman, Mr Thabo Mofokeng, on 031 311 4820 or 082 731 7456 or e-mail mofokengthabo@durban.gov.za.