Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle Reporter
THE Bulawayo City Council has proposed mandatory cremation for people aged 25 and below as it grapples with a shortage of burial space in the city.
According to the latest council report, West Park Cemetery is now left with burial space for 200 graves with some councillors mooting the idea of mandatory cremation of young people and double burial in one grave.
The Director of Health Services, Dr Edwin Sibanda, said West Park Cemetery would be decommissioned as at end of October, there was space for only 200 graves.
Other cemeteries are set to be opened in Marvel Township and Pumula South suburb.
“At the current rate, it was expected that the cemetery would be decommissioned at the end of October 2018. Athlone and Marvel Cemeteries are works in progress. Pumula South Cemetery has already been gazetted,” said Dr Sibanda.
He said efforts were being made to encourage residents to consider double burials. “Once the council cremator is available, relevant cremation policies will be formulated” said Dr Sibanda.
He said children under 12 would be mandatorily cremated when they die.
Debating the emotive issue during a full council meeting, Ward 17 councillor Sikhululekile Moyo said the demand for land for burial space was consuming a lot of space. “Residents should be encouraged to consider cremations. All persons below 25 years should automatically be cremated in order to save space for burials,” she said.
Ward 1 Cllr Mlandu Ncube said double interments for family members should be considered as well as promotion of cremations.
“Your Worship, cemeteries are consuming more land in our city. The land reserved for houses and factories is now being reserved for graves. We need to encourage our residents to adopt modern methods like cremation. If you look at Number 6 cemetery, how many houses would have been built on that land?” asked Cllr Ncube.
Cllr Silas Chigora felt that it would be prudent to establish a number of cemeteries across the city in order to reduce transport costs.
Ward Seven Cllr Shadreck Sibanda said:
“The remaining grave space (at West Park) should be reserved for Mzilikazi and Makokoba residents while for convenience, residents should not travel long distances for burials”.
Councillor for Ward 8, Ronniah Mudara, supported the suggestion that the remaining burial space at West Park be reserved for Mzilikazi and Makokoba residents and that double interments should also be encouraged.
Councillors were divided on the issue of cremation with some saying that people would never accept cremation but instead be encouraged to bury their loved ones in the rural areas to save space.
Residents have over the years opposed the idea of cremation, saying it was unAfrican. In Bulawayo, it costs about $63 to cremate a body while conducting burial without a funeral policy costs no less than $1 000.
With cremation, costs of ferrying people to and from cemeteries are bypassed, and the cost of hiring a hearse to take the body to the graveyard is also avoided. It also saves on land, but council has been facing an uphill task in getting people to understand and consider the rite.
Historian and researcher Mr Pathisa Nyathi is on record as saying that cremation has been practised by some cultures, but not among Africans.
“Such a subject is applicable to all our ethnic groups, Africans in general. People have a tendency of wanting to do things the way they have always been done.
“We have been around for thousands of years, and Africans have been burying their dead. Africans believe in the dual nature of human beings, the physical and the spiritual. Death to the Africans is not the end but a new beginning and so what the Africans want is to bring back the spirit (umbuyiso). The grave becomes important in that rite,” he said in an earlier interview.
“So if we go the cremation route, we will lose a very important aspect of the African belief. Uzabuyisa njani umuntu etshile? (How will you bring back the person when they have been burnt to ashes?)”.
This is not the first time the BCC has been faced with a burial space headache. Last year the local authority started approving two bodies per grave burials.
In 2016, West Park Cemetery was closed and residents were being referred to Luveve Cemetery for burials before the local authority extended West Park. — @AuxiliaK