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The critical shortage of burial space will be eased with the opening of the Avalon Extension Cemetery, which has space for tens of thousands of new primary burials.
AVALON Extension Cemetery, opened this week, has space for 25 000 primary burials, so helping to alleviate the shortage of graves in Joburg.


MMC Matshidiso MfokoeFamilies should consider second burials, says MMC Matshidiso MfikoeThe extension, established at a cost of R11-milion, is next to Avalon Cemetery, which borders Lenasia. It was officially opened by Matshidiso Mfikoe, the member of the mayoral committee for environment and corporate services, on 9 February.

At 20 hectares in size, it will ease the shortage of burial space in the southern quadrant of the city and will address congestion in Avalon Cemetery, where more than 200 burials take place every week.

The development includes a road network, an attenuation pond, a drainage system, fencing, a guard house, ablution facilities, site clearing, rock excavation and landscaping. Speaking at the opening, Mfikoe said City Parks was working on other gravesites to make sure there was enough burial space.

“City Parks is currently costing the development of three other cemeteries in Olifantsvlei, Riverlea and Orange Farm. Once these cemeteries are developed, Joburg will officially have space for an additional 1,4 million new burial sites. This effectively means Johannesburg City Parks has burial space for an additional 69 years,” said Mfikoe.

This number took into consideration the annual increase in population and mortality levels.

Of the city’s 36 cemeteries, 27 had already reached their full capacity for primary burials. “Avalon Cemetery will reach its full capacity for primary burial by July 2011. This effectively means we have nine cemeteries with burial space of 552 000 new graves that are currently available.”

Mfikoe encouraged people to consider second burials: “We urge communities to consider second burials, where bodies belonging to the same family can be buried in the same grave, or they can even go for cremation as another option.”


MMC Matshidiso Mfikoe cuts a ribbon to officially open Avalon Extension CemeteryMMC Matshidiso Mfikoe cuts a ribbon to officially open Avalon Extension CemeteryThis would alleviate the long term concerns regarding the shortage of burial space while providing residents “with the dignity of choice when considering alternative options to burial”.

The councillor urged people who would be using the cemetery to protect its sanctity and respect its holiness. It contains the graves of struggle heroes such as Joe Slovo, Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Tsietsi Mashinini.

Miriam Ramokgopa, the ward 11 councillor for Chiawelo, in Soweto, said that while residents appreciated the good work done by City Parks, they were concerned about the theft and vandalising of tombstones. The utility must ensure that security was tight at cemeteries. She pointed out that there was a report of a tombstone stolen from Avalon Cemetery almost every week.

Responding to Ramokgopa‘s concerns, the acting managing director of City Parks, Geoffrey Cooke, said his utility would be introducing new security measures at all cemeteries.

“We have measures in place to address the security challenges at our cemeteries. Following reports that we have received of vandalisation of graves and stealing of tombstones in the past years, we are going to deploy Johannesburg metro police officers who will be patrolling at these cemeteries from time to time as a measure of addressing this problem.”

It would also engage funeral undertakers who conducted funerals at the cemetery, to share possible ways that cemeteries could be given extra care. Cooke pointed out, however, that the community also needed to play its part in ensuring that those who stole from and vandalised graves were caught and brought to book.

“Vandalism and stealing of graves is a criminal act and as such we urge the community to report these kinds of cases to the police.”

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