Mfuleni residents have welcomed news of the construction of a new cemetery in the coming weeks.
Because of this, they said, they would no longer have to use far-away cemeteries or hire buses to transport mourners to funerals.
The City of Cape Town’s Parks and Recreation Department announced on Thursday June 29 that it would soon start construction on the new Metro South-East Cemetery in Mfuleni and that R22.2 million would be spent on this project over the next four years, as well as several planned extensions to existing cemeteries.
The news came as a revelation to many Mfuleni residents.
Community leader Malibongwe Yisa said this should have done a while ago, but praised the City for the development nonetheless. “If you look around Mfuleni, we have two cemeteries but they are both too small. But we understood because they were designed for Zwelitsha and the old location. But now the area has grown tremendously. We since have areas like Bardale, Extension 4 and 5 and many other informal settlements, Burundi, Garden City, Shukushukuma, Nyakathisa and others. That is why we deserve another cemetery,” he said.
Another community leader and an African National Congress branch chairperson, Moeti September, added that there were times when families could not afford to bury their loved ones because of the distance to available cemeteries and the associated costs.
And because of the space problem, said Mr September, some people had resorted to burying their loved ones on the pavements of the cemeteries.
“You can see that people had no money to take people far. Some of the graves are just on pavement or right next to it. They were doing that not because they have no respect for law, but there was no other alternative.”
“The distance to bury people has been a big challenge. People could not hire buses and you also need to have traffic officers to guide you. It has been tough for many of the families.”
So, he added, “For the poorest of the poor, this is good news.
As part of their efforts to address the problem, the City called on people to consider cremation instead, with mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith saying the City was under continuous pressure to provide burial space as it remained the preferred option over cremation (a 60/40 split) for many, based on cultural and religious beliefs.
“We are in the difficult position of jockeying for land with other departments who are facing service delivery demands of their own, like provision of housing and community facilities. Ongoing provision of burial space in response to need remains a priority for the City, however we do ask that residents strongly consider cremation where cultural and religious beliefs do not preclude this,” he said.
But Mr September said cremation wasn’t an option for many black people. “The one thing about black people is that they cannot cremate. Our beliefs, cultures and customs do not allow us to practise that. We believe in burying people that in future we call them ancestors in a dignified manner.”
Mr Smith said the planned Metro South-East Cemetery would make available 24 800 graves and the Vaalfontein Outspan Cemetery development will have capacity for just over 26 000 graves. There is also ongoing development at existing regional cemeteries like Atlantis and Welmoed.