BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
BULAWAYO City Council is set to take over the privately-owned Umvutcha Cemetery with an estimated 45 000-grave capacity to ease a shortage of burial space.
The city has been battling burial space shortage following the decommissioning of West Park, Luveve, Athlone and Hyde Park cemeteries.
The only burials taking place at the decommissioned cemeteries are for reserved graves and in some instances, second interments.
At present, the local authority is operating three cemeteries, Athlone West, Luveve Extension and Lady Stanley.
Lady Stanley is reserved for senior prominent citizens.
To ease the shortage of burial space, council had granted authority to AP Glendanning to operate Umvutcha cemetery.
However, the cemetery has been deemed unattractive to residents because of its location, forcing its proprietors to approach council seeking to turn it into residential stands, a latest council report revealed.
Residents also complained that the cemetery did not offer grave refilling services which was another inconvenience for mourners.
“After realising that burial business was very low, AP Glendanning engaged council to exchange burial land for residential stands.
“The cemetery was fully developed with all requirements. This was of benefit to council,” read the latest council report of the health, housing and education committee in part.
“The offer by AP Glendanning to hand over Umvutcha Cemetery came in at a time when council was decommissioning West Park Cemetery.
“Council was in need of burial space. AP Glendanning had requested to exchange burial land for residential stands.
“Umvutcha Cemetery was fully developed with all the required infrastructure.
“The cemetery boasts a serene environment with a well-landscaped administration area.
“There is a functioning fountain. The cemetery also has a chapel that is ideal to conduct services. Umvutcha Cemetery under council would still maintain its upmarket class.”
Councillors have in the past suggested that residents bury their loved ones at their rural homes or cremate their remains among other alternatives to save burial space in the city.
Council is mulling introducing mandatory cremation for children under the age of 12 as the city is running out of burial space but some councillors feel all persons under 25 years should be incinerated.
The local authority has been trying to encourage residents to embrace cremation to save the available burial space but there have been few takers.
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