Councillor Zahid Badroodien, Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, City of Cape Town, joined Benito Vergotine in studio to discuss the major challenge in the metropolitan areas for burial space.
Listen to the conversation here: City cautiously optimistic about new burial alternatives
The City of Cape Town notes the recent announcement by AVBOB about the introduction of a process called Aquamation, which is designed to reduce human remains through a process of water, pressure and heat.
Burial space is a major challenge in metropolitan areas around the world, and Cape Town is no different.
The City therefore welcomes any alternative methods, provided these are in line with national, provincial and municipal legislation, and that they advance the objective of reducing the demand for burials.
Earlier this year, Washington State in the US approved human composting as an alternative burial option. In South Africa, while options remain limited, the National Health Act (Act No 61 of 2003) does allow for sea burials. The authority for these types of burials rests with the Port Master. As the urgency to identify and adopt alternative burial means intensifies across the world, communities must start to consider the current options available while continuing to respect religious and cultural beliefs.
Currently, the City of Cape Town offers burial and cremation services to the public. The demand for cremation is approximately 40%, versus a 60% demand for burial. The municipal cemeteries receive an average of 1 100 burials per month. 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.
While the City has been vigilantly exploring additional sites for burial space over the last 10 years, certain factors make this quite difficult, such as:
· environmental laws for establishing new cemeteries
· competing demands for land to be used for housing and other community amenities
There are 40 cemeteries within Cape Town, and 17 of them are currently still being used. Of the 17 cemeteries still being used, only six have a significant amount of burial space left. The rest are all being used by families reopening graves to accommodate a second or third burial.
A new cemetery is currently being built in Mfuleni, called the Metro South-East Cemetery, which is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2020. Plans to extend Welmoed and Atlantis Cemeteries are also underway, while applications for environmental approval of new cemeteries in Tafelsig, Vaalfontein and Rusthof are also being pursued.
The City encourages residents to consider the following burial options to help with the current shortage:
· Reopening of family graves, wherever possible, 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.
· Cremations, where cultural and religious beliefs do not prohibit this.
The procedures, administration and compliance at the Crematorium in Maitland are strictly monitored by the City’s Community Services and Health Department and the licencing authority, as well as the Air Quality Management Office of the Western Cape Provincial Legislature.
The procedures with regards to the cremation process at the Crematorium include:
· Strict control of deceased documentation is done by the Medical Referee before cremation is approved.
· The coffin received after the funeral services is cremated within 72 hours.
· Cremations are numbered and take an average of 90 minutes per coffin, with one coffin cremated at a time.
· The Crematorium is not a mortuary and no transfer of bodies into another coffin takes place.
· A cremation certificate is issued and delivered to the family.
Although the Crematorium is licensed for six cremators, currently only two cremators are in operation, with a plan to procure additional cremators in 2020.
The City pleads with communities to help prevent our cemeteries from being vandalised. A significant amount of financial resources and security contributions are made to protect our cemeteries. Communities are requested to report any suspicious activity to the local law enforcement teams or by contacting 021 480 7700.