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City faces grave dilemma

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Some space was opened up at the West End Cemetery by using ground previously considered inappropriate because of hard rock

CRISIS: Within the next few weeks the city cemeteries will be full and the Phutanang Cemetery which was completed in 2010 has never been used. Picture: Soraya Crowie

KIMBERLEY is facing a major crisis with only a handful of graves still available to bury the dead.

It is believed that within the next few weeks there will be no place available at the city’s graveyards.

The West End Cemetery only has place for an estimated 10 more “straight burials”, although the reopening of existing graves (for burial on top of a family member) will still be available.

Galeshewe’s ABC Cemetery is already full and only the reopening of existing graves is currently taking place there, while Roodepan Cemetery also only has a very limited number of graves still available.

The Kenilworth Cemetery has, meanwhile, essentially become a no-go area due to the illegal alluvial diamond digging taking place there.

The issue has been a serious concern for several years and in 2010 already the city council was informed by officials that the cemeteries in Kimberley were either totally full or nearing capacity.

It was stated at the time that the ABC Cemetery, the Pioneer Cemetery and the Gladstone Cemetery were already full, while the West End Cemetery, Roodepan and Greenpoint were 98% full.

Some space was opened up at the West End Cemetery by using ground previously considered inappropriate because of hard rock.

The warning has been repeated several times, and again in the 2017/18 Annual Report, where it was stated that existing cemeteries were full to capacity.

The situation has, however, now reached critical proportions, where within a matter of a few weeks there will literally be no space to bury the dead.

According to the 2017/18 annual report, the Phutanang Cemetery was developed for burials to relieve the situation. “However, the conditions at the Phutanang Cemetery cannot allow the community to use the cemetery as a result of the fence that has been stolen, animals roaming around, the continual leakage of sewage, vandalism of the office while the infrastructure of roads is inadequate,” the report states.

This cemetery was built at a cost of R1 million and was originally scheduled to open in 2010 but has still to date not been utilised and no burials have taken place.

Despite access roads within the cemetery grounds being developed and paved, as well as the perimeter fence being erected, the Sol Plaatje City Council has still not taken a decision whether to use the cemetery or to build a new one.

According to insiders, invitations were sent out twice for the official opening of the cemetery, however, this never materialised.

Discussions were also at one stage under way on whether the ground should be used instead for housing development.

At the time when it was expected to open, it was reported that the cemetery would service the city’s needs for the next 25 years.

The cemetery, which took about two years to complete, is 34 hectares in size and cost more than R1 million. “It has five mast lights and an ablution facility. There is also a tarred access road leading into the facility,” Sol Plaatje spokesperson Sello Matsie said at the time.

The facility was expected to relieve the current pressure on other graveyards in the city. “This cemetery will reduce pressure on the West End, Roodepan and Galeshewe cemeteries. The Roodepan Cemetery is almost full and we had to resort to reburials in order to save space,” Matsie stated.

A report by the Sol Plaatje Municipality indicated several issues at the Phutanang Cemetery, including vandalism of the fence (around the administration office) and a break-in at the office. “The sanitation and stormwater drainage system is also problematic, where raw sewage and stormwater flow from the nearby settlement dams up in the yard.”

According to the report, the cemetery has only one entry point, affecting the traffic flow. Parking was also not considered.

Currently it has become a dumping site for rubbish, while raw sewage flows freely through the area.

Matsie confirmed yesterday that the municipality was facing a critical shortage of available graves.

“Although the offices at the Phutanang Cemetery have been vandalised and the perimeter fence stolen, it is available for burials should the city council take a decision to that effect.”

Matsie added that undertakers in Kimberley would be informed of the current situation.

He stated that on average between 30 to 40 burials took place in the city on a weekly basis.