Phoenix cre­ma­to­rium ‘bet­ter off’ in pri­vate hands

Post - - News - NADIA KHAN

THE eThek­wini Mu­nic­i­pal­ity has ad­mit­ted it does not have staff with the right skills to prop­erly run a cre­ma­to­rium.

Its run­ning of the Mobeni Heights Cre­ma­to­rium has of­ten been crit­i­cised when fur­naces con­stantly pack up with lengthy de­lays in fix­ing them. Now, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has de­cided it might be best to leave its new planned cre­ma­to­rium in Phoenix in pri­vate hands.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s head of ceme­ter­ies and cre­ma­to­ria, Them­binkosi Ng­cobo, said the de­ci­sion was made fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions with the pri­vate sec­tor.

“We lis­tened when we were told that the pri­vate sec­tor would have bet­ter skills to run a cre­ma­to­rium, as we don’t have em­ploy­ees with the skills that would be able to,” he told POST.

“How­ever, it is a win-win sit­u­a­tion. As the pub­lic sec­tor, we made the land avail­able at no cost.

“It will be run by the pri­vate sec­tor for 30 years and then be handed back to mu­nic­i­pal­ity, and by that time we would have ac­quired the skills needed to run the cre­ma­to­rium.”

The pro­posed pri­vate cre­ma­to­rium has, how­ever, re­ceived mixed re­ac­tions from res­i­dents and var­i­ous stake­hold­ers, with con­cerns ex­pressed that it would mainly cater for the wealthy.

Mu­nic­i­pal cre­ma­to­ri­ums charge be­tween R360 and R690 while pri­vate fa­cil­i­ties usu­ally charge more than dou­ble this.

The chair­per­son of the KZN Fu­neral Di­rec­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, Lo­gan Chetty, said that the Phoenix cre­ma­to­rium would ease the strain on other fa­cil­i­ties. How­ever, he be­lieves the new fa­cil­ity should be con­structed and man­aged by the city.

Wood­view Ratepayers As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber Devon Singh feared that a pri­vate cre­ma­to­rium would only be utilised by the wealthy, say­ing many lo­cal res­i­dents earned be­low the min­i­mum wage.

“Many house­holds have an in­come of less than R1 500 a month and are liv­ing on tight bud­gets, so when there is a death, they would not be able to af­ford the high amounts re­quested by a pri­vate cre­ma­to­rium,” he said. “They would also have to go to Ton­gaat or Mobeni Heights, which is of great in­con­ve­nience.”

Hindu priest Neresh Ma­haraj, of the Shiv Shak­thi Sanathan Dharma Sabha in Phoenix, said it had been a long bat­tle to get a cre­ma­to­rium in the town­ship.

“My par­ents wrote count­less let­ters to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity de­tail­ing the strug­gles the com­mu­nity faced but they never re­ceived a re­sponse. We are now truly happy there will be a cre­ma­to­rium in the area. The death of a fam­ily mem­ber is trau­matic and hav­ing to run to other ar­eas for cre­ma­tion and wait­ing for a book­ing is costly and tire­some.”

DA coun­cil­lor Lyn­dal Singh said pop­u­la­tion growth and the short­age of burial space was a ma­jor fac­tor in a cre­ma­to­rium be­ing ap­proved.

“I mo­ti­vated for the pro­posal to be ap­proved and it is pleas­ing that af­ter years of pres­sure by the DA, the ANC fi­nally re­alised the cur­rent state of the cre­ma­to­ri­ums and the need for new ones in the city.”

MF coun­cil­lor Jonathan An­nipen said the de­vel­op­ment was a vic­tory for Phoenix.

“Griev­ing fam­i­lies are of­ten made to wait long hours, as the fur­naces at the ex­ist­ing cre­ma­to­ri­ums are of­ten not avail­able. The city must be com­mended for this ini­tia­tive.”

The eThek­wini’s head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Tozi Mthethwa, said the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was now seek­ing pro­pos­als from pri­vate en­ti­ties within the ceme­ter­ies and cre­ma­to­rium sec­tor to con­struct and man­age the new cre­ma­to­rium in Phoenix.

“The pro­posed Phoenix cre­ma­to­rium will be es­tab­lished at Phoenix Cemetery. An ad­ver­tise­ment re­quest­ing pro­pos­als has been cir­cu­lated and some pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tions have shown in­ter­est.”

Pro­pos­als are open for a month and con­struc­tion would com­mence as soon as the le­gal pro­cesses had been com­pleted.

PIC­TURE: DOC­TOR NG­COBO

The site for a new cre­ma­to­rium in Phoenix.

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