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Tuesday, 6 November 2018

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Reconsidering the way we bury our loved ones

Johannesburg – Over the course of the last decade, technological development has revolutionised every sector and industry, and emanated in many shifts in sociocultural evolution. For instance, people are able to work from anywhere, anytime, using almost any device in platform because of technology trends such as cloud computing and mobility, as well as cultural shifts like the mobile workforce and bring your own device.   

However, one area that has seemingly escaped the reforming waves of cultural evolution is the act of burying your loved ones. The majority of people still opt for private graves for burial, which is unsustainable within cities such as Johannesburg, where the greatest amount of burials in Gauteng are done as a result of various factors including the high number of migrations into the City of Gold.

All major cities within South Africa have to find new ways of burying its immortal remains, in order to be in a position to continue fulfilling their obligation of providing sufficient burial space.

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) are the custodian of Cemeteries and Crematoria in the City of Johannesburg. Consequently, JCPZ has the responsibility of ensuring that it can provide burial space for the immortal remains of Johannesburg’s residents.  Only 4 of the 38 cemeteries that it manages is available for new burials, with burial space for the next 50-60 years.


Till death do us part...

According to Cllr Nonhlanhla Sifumba Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Development in The City of Johannesburg, there are various alternative burial options available to people, especially for families with existing burial locations. These include reduction burials, which involves using a smaller coffin for remains, in order for more room to be created for additional burial space, in the same location.

Another option which the City is seeing greater interest in, is ideal for couples and families, is second burials in the same grave. According to City bylaws, people may opt to bury additional family members in the same grave. In fact, up to three family members may use the same grave, allowing family members to be laid to rest in one burial location. This ensures that they are together, even in death, making it easier for those left behind to visit them all. “This option is much more affordable, is environmental friendly, affords the family to pay their respects to loved ones at the same gravesite and in the long term, absolves future generations from bearing the burden of escalating maintenance costs for the dormant cemeteries,” stated Sifumba.

Ultimately, the adoption of the second burial method isn’t against the many African cultures and the practice thereof, is already being adopted more and more by South Africans. In fact, numerous residents in Tshwane and Johannesburg are adopting the second burial method which has seen an increase in the recent years, due to cemeteries such as Avalon and cemeteries in Alexandra reaching full capacity for primary burials.

For instance, 2379 burials were considered in the 2014/15 financial year, and this number has now grown to more than 4 000 during the 2017/18 financial year. It is estimated that an average of 20% of all burials in Johannesburg are relative to reopenings.

People may also opt for mausoleum burials, which is above ground burials in a tomb or chamber that allows for families to be buried together within the structure. Moreover, there is the option of cremation, which some cultures have adopted as a preferred option and in a dignified manner the ash may be scattered or placed in memorial wall to commemorate the deceased.

Ultimately, there are many options available to people to provide a dignified resting place for their loved ones, while maximising space allotted to burials.

Sifumba reinforced, “that there is currently adequate burial space in the City of Joburg, however we need to start considering alternatives now, to cater for the future when there will be not enough cemeteries for the anticipated growth in urban centres in the world.

Religious leaders and funeral directors are urged to speak to the bereaved family about alternatives to enable the City of Joburg to provide dignified burial options for loved ones.

Residents wanting to know more about alternatives may visit or call 011 712-6600.



Issued by

Councillor Nonhlanhla Sifumba

The Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Development

City of Joburg




Jenny Moodley

Spokesperson: Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo

Tel: 011 712-6600 or 082 8030 748/082 906 1515