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City and CRL Commission reach consensus on burial practises

THE Municipality lived up to its vision of becoming a caring and liveable city in Africa when it committed to ensuring that its citizens’ needs are prioritised at all times. This was the commitment made by Mayor, Councillor Zandile Gumede during the hearing on the city’s burial practises which was called by the Cultural, Religious and Linguistics Rights Commission recently.

The Commission argued that practises such as re-use of graves are discriminatory against people who have not erected tombstones on their loved ones’ gravesites based on religion, belief and culture.

Responding to questions raised by the Commission, Mayor Zandile Gumede explained that the Municipality is guided by the KZN Cemeteries and Crematoria Act No.12 of 1996 which makes provision for unleased graves to be re-used 10 years after the interment of a body.

She said that the Municipality intended to adopt a policy decision that would allow families who cannot afford to renew their leases after 10 years to come forward and after a thorough assessment, would be given amnesty to continue leasing the gravesite without paying. Mayor Gumede emphasised that during the re-use of gravesites, remains are treated with the utmost dignity and not disposed of in an inhumane manner. She said that to avoid people of different cultural and religious backgrounds being buried in the same grave, the Municipality encouraged the burial of people of the same family in a particular grave.

She also said that in future the Municipality would use the services of a tracing agent. The core function of the tracing agent would be to locate all people whose lease agreements are coming to an end and consult with them adequately before tempering with the gravesite. The agent would make all efforts to contact the title deed holder or their next of kin to inform them of the repercussions of the default in payment. Only after all the above mentioned efforts have been exhausted, and still no success in consulting with the deed holder, would the Municipality re-use the gravesite as permitted by the law.

The Chairperson of the Cultural, Religious and Linguistics Rights Commission, Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva expressed her gratitude at the commitment shown by the City to respect and preserve people’s cultural and religious beliefs. “We have been discussing this matter with the City for close to 10 years and finally I am happy that we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. It is also important for us to educate our communities about the importance of looking after their loved ones’ gravesites. Graves form part of our history and heritage.It is therefore important for us to preserve and maintain them so our future generations will know where their ancestors are laid to rest,” she said.

vuyo.ndlovu@durban.gov.za 

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