Row over funeral space

Stats SA has released its report into causes of deaths in South Africa. Picture Gallo Images

Residents of Ventersburg are feuding with local authorities over a cemetery they say is a wetland not suitable for their dead.

Now officials of municipality 405 have pleaded for calm and asked the community to give it three weeks to do a study and possibly find a new burial site. The original cemetery ran out of space early last year and the authorities allocated a site not far from the old one.

What sparked the crisis was when water from a burst pipe flooded the new cemetery damaging several graves. Residents started complaining but then said they had discovered the cemetery was standing on a wetland. They said areas of the site were waterlogged.

Residents also argued that the site was prone to waterlogging and felt uncomfortable burying their deceased relatives. Municipality 405 mayor Kgotso Khumalo recently met with residents and said their concerns were getting attention.

“The Ventersdorp cemetery had reached its full capacity, leading to a serious shortage of burial space. We all know that this issue has attracted attention from the media. “To mitigate the situation, we had to get an alternative space outside the existing boundaries to accommodate new burials,” he said.

Khumalo said in mitigating the challenge and allowing relatives to bury their loved ones, they had extended a portion of land adjacent to the cemetery.

“Between December 2015 and February 2016, 47 burials were conducted. However, we know that the area was flooded by water as a result of a pipe that burst. “Immediately after the incident, we received a number of complaints from members of the community and families of the deceased. Furthermore, the community’s suspicion was that the extended portion holds high levels of ground water and, as such, the area is extremely unsuitable for burials,” he said.

The mayor said that a team of engineers had been appointed to do a feasibility study on the area so that the decision taken going forward gives dignity to those buried at the cemetery.

“As part of our intervention, we have appointed consulting engineers to do underwater ingress investigations from today. The results of the investigations will be released after a period not exceeding three weeks bearing in mind the rainy season we are experiencing in our town,” Khumalo said.

The mayor asked for cooperation from the community. He said the municipality would do its best to find a suitable cemetery.

“We have already engaged the affected families through their representatives and informed them about our status. This is a very serious and emotional situation.

I wish to appeal to all the families to be calm and give us time to do our investigation,” he said.