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Major South African cities running out of burial land

Cape Town – THE South African Cemeteries Association (Saca) claims municipalities and the government aren’t effectively communicating the lack of burial land.

At the second PAN African Conference, it was said that the world’s population was more than seven billion.

According to a press release by Saca, if burials were the only option then humans would require as many graves within 50 to 80 years.

“The South African population is in excess of 57 million (and) is also growing exponentially and faces the same situation of having to find 57 million graves within 50 to 80 years,” the press release stated.


Mayoral committee member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien said the city’s demand for cremation versus burial was 40:60.

“The scarcity of burial space, steady increase in population and limited number of cemeteries receiving burials, have influenced a slight increase in demand for cremation,” said Badroodien.

A new cemetery is under construction in Mfuleni, scheduled for completion by the end of 2020. Plans to extend Welmoed and Atlantis cemeteries are also under way, while applications for environmental approval of new cemeteries in Tafelsig, Vaalfontein and Rusthof are being pursued.

“The city has a critical shortage of burial space as announced in the media over the years. To add to this, there is a huge demand for Saturday burials, with 64% of people wanting to have burials on a Saturday. Residents are encouraged to have burials take place during the week, in order to alleviate the traffic of burials taking place on a Saturday,” said Badroodien.

Environmental laws for burial space and competing demands for land for housing affect burial space, he added.

Capetonians are encouraged to reopen family graves to accommodate a second or third burial.

“The city has seen an increase in these types of burials over the past few years, mausoleum burial… this type of burial is an above-ground building that coffins are enclosed in. Mausoleum burials can be reserved with the city and cremations, where cultural and religious beliefs do not prohibit this,” said Badroodien.

Jenny Moodley, spokesperson for Johannesburg City Parks, said 29 of the 34 cemeteries in the city were at capacity.

“We have developed two new cemeteries; even if there is a natural disaster we will have enough space. However, we are calling on communities to opt for other alternatives as dormant cemeteries lead to other issues such as opportunistic crime and neglected graveyards which increases running costs.”

Louise Sinclair from the Durban Progressive Jewish Congregation said they were open to both cremation and burial, although “the method would be dependent on the family’s wishes”.

“Historically, some Jewish people do not believe in cremation because of the Holocaust.”

Ashwin Trikamji from Hindu Maha Sabha said: “(Cremation) is the most hygienic way and it is returning to the elements. Although some do choose to bury, we have called for more crematoriums to be built.”

Islamic Burial Council chairperson Salim Kazi said Muslims: “It is what has been passed down. A person is created from dust, dust goes into dust and will become dust.”

Minister Tony Potter from St Andrew’s Church in Pinelands said Christians were divided on the matter. “It depends on their racial-cultural beliefs. There is no biblical rule on whether to cremate or bury.”

Reverend Yvonne Daki-Combi said things had changed among traditional African cultures. “Before we would only do burials because it is believed that for you to become an ancestor you must be in your body. However, now we are seeing a few families who are cremating.”

“As South Africans, let us opt for practices when considering those that have passed, that sustain the environment and are viable financially and socially,” said Pepe Dass, chairperson of Saca.