Council Settles For Mandatory Cremation Of 1-year-olds

THE Bulawayo City Council has revised the mandatory cremation of children from under 12 years of age to only those aged one year and below as residents resist this method of burying their loved ones.

Last month, council proposed mandatory cremation for children below the age of 12, after expressing concern that burial space was fast running out.  In the latest Council Report, the city fathers resolved to revise the mandatory cremation age to 12 months and below.

“Responding to the sentiments raised by the councillors, the Director of Health Services (Dr Edwin Sibanda, before he was suspended) explained that the reason behind compulsory cremation was that Council was running out of burial space.

“Previously the state used to offer free cremation services for still born babies but this was no longer available resulting in parents incurring burial expenses and also being exposed to unscrupulous dealers who collected money from them but never disposed of the bodies as usually these are not attended by family members,” reads the report.

“The Chamber Secretary advised that Paupers Burials were guided by the Cremation and Burial Act It was – resolved: That the 12-year age limit for cremation be not acceded to; instead the age limit for compulsory cremation be adjusted to 0-12 months.”

According to the report, the city conducts approximately 5 000 burials a year.  However, council said burial space is fast running out in Bulawayo.  It said cremation has not been embraced by indigenous people and is only practised by the Hindu community and some Caucasians and Asians.

“In the past four years, three new cemeteries had been designated in the city, namely Athlone West, Marvel, and Pumula South, of these cemeteries Athlone West had since been decommissioned after it filled up only three years from the commission with approximately 7 500 burials,” it said.

The report also stated that Umvutcha Cemetery with a projected grave capacity of 45 000 will be decommissioned in 10 years’ time.  “Cases had been documented where family members had refused the cremation of their own despite that having been the wish of the deceased.

The common disposal practice had been burial right throughout all ages,” read the Council Report.  People believe that the dead continue being with them, the Council Report reads, and cremation means disconnection from their loved ones.“With the erection of monuments and in some cases annual rituals by some members of society.

“Graves were held dearly and were visited occasionally to be maintained. The departed had continued to be seen to preside over the ones left behind and this has made it difficult to bring about the idea of cremation which was literally regarded as burning the deceased,” read the minutes.

Early this month, Botswana-based legal expert and historian Mr Thomas Sibanda told Chronicle that cremation is not African. He said if council is considering saving burial land, it should follow what Africans used to do before their interaction with modernity.

Renowned historian Mr Pathisa Nyathi is on record saying cremation is against  African values especially considering that rituals such as umbuyiso is conducted when one dies.  Umbuyiso is a process where the spirit of the deceased is revived and, in most cases, brought back to the family homestead.

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