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Jozi has room in the cemetery: here are the alternatives



With repeated warnings about the lack of cemetery space in South Africa, officials have asked people to consider other burial methods.

On Thursday, the City of Johannesburg repeated the appeal to residents to consider burying several lovers in one grave or choosing cremation. This was not the first time the city begged to be open to space-saving burial methods.

In April, TimesLIVE reported that the Johannesburg MMC for community development, Nonhlanhla Sifumba, said cemeteries had reached full capacity.

"It is our responsibility, as the current leaders, to ensure that future generations do not inherit the burden of managing cemeteries that have reached their full capacity, without informing our residents about alternative burial options."

So, what are the other options? The answers may surprise you.

Green funerals

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, a green funeral ensures that the body can naturally decay into a coffin made of biodegradable material.

Instead of a coffin, people have the possibility to dress the deceased in clothing or a shroud made of tissue that can decay naturally.

This means that a single grave can be used for countless funerals for many years. Research on how long it takes before the human body is dissolved has produced different results based on weather conditions and the type of burial chosen.

But there seems to be consensus in the academic community that when it is buried 2 meters underground, the human body can take from 8 to 12 years to reach the final stages of decomposition.

Green funerals are rapidly gaining popularity in the US, but have not yet been fully captured in Mzansi.

Pioneering for this service in Gauteng is the Pretoria-based Sonja Smith Elite Funeral Group, which offers a series of coffins of natural paper.

Mausoleum room

The Westpark cemetery offers residents another option: an above-ground burial in a mausoleum. Instead of the deceased being buried in a grave underground, their remains, whether they are in a coffin or in a cemetery, are kept in a mausoleum, which is a storage room above the ground.


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