The City of Cape Town (CoCT) has said it will investigate possible options following an announcement that no new graves will be dug at Vygiekraal Muslim Cemetery.
This follows last Thursday’s decision by the Vygiekraal Cemetery Board that the janaazah’s (funerals) of adults will only be accommodated if there is a family grave of 15 years or older that can be reopened. It was also pointed out that no burial place can be reopened if there is one or more fresh graves next to it or close by as the walls could collapse.
Chairperson of Western Cape Undertaker’s Forum Ebrahim Solomon explained that the decision was long overdue as the cemetery is “filled to capacity.”
CoCT’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health Councilor Zahid Badroedien said the lack of sufficient cemetery space is an issue that resonates throughout the country.
Badroedien went on to explain that inquiries for increased space was made in 1994, but nothing came from it due to the lack of urgency at the time.
The councilor noted that the Parks and Forestry Department of the time had agreed to forfeit a 20-meter strip of land but that amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations of the National Environmental Management Act (Act No. 107 of 1998) further hindered the process.
Badroedien said the new regulations were passed in 2006 and the City was re-approached the next year.
According to the councilor an application for an environmental impact assessment test was made in 2013 and was issued in 2015.
Badroedien explained that the authorization was issued and has a five-year validity period but is subject to the installation of a de-watering system as the area is water logged.
Badroedien said the City “will work with the burial trust to put together an engineering plan to implement the de-watering system so the land can be used.”
Although Vygiekraal had not urgently required additional space at the time of inquiry, he noted that the need for cemetery space is continuous and should therefore be taken seriously.
“There are specific clearly identified allotments belong(ing) to the Muslim community and we are looking into increasing the space, with new space being identified going forward.”
The councilor has also urged the Muslim community to consider burying at municipal cemeteries as they are affordable and there is “unfortunately no space at Vygieskraal”.
“We (the CoCT) are engaging with the Muslim community and those who manage the cemeteries but at the same time there are also other options to utilize. I’d like to encourage the community to at least start considering using these options. We are doing our best to manage the situation as it stands.”
He added that a meeting with the Muslim Cemetery Board was meant to take place on Saturday 26th January but did not as the City had not received confirmation. He said a date for this meeting will be established.
VOC/ Tauhierah Salie