BCC moots ban on child burials

Local News
BULAWAYO City Council

THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is proposing to ban burials of children between the ages of zero to 12 years and make cremation mandatory to save burial space.

Councillors have been pushing residents to consider cremating their deceased relatives as the city is running out of burial space, but the proposal has been fiercely resisted.

During a recent council meeting, health services department director Edwin Sibanda said the local authority had leased a piece of land at Luveve Cemetery to a private contractor, who had built a crematorium.

He said the contractor was willing to work with council to provide cremation services, and plans were afoot to cut cremation fees for children aged zero to 12 years to US$30.

Councillor Felix Mhaka praised the health services department for the initiative, stating that residents needed cremation services, particularly for stillborn babies.

Although cremation is considered alien in African culture, engaging residents would help to change the thinking, he said.

Mhaka stated that a timeline for the prohibition of burials of children between the ages of zero and 12 years was needed and proposed to launch the exercise on February 1, 2023.

Ward 17 councillor Skhululekile Moyo also supported the cremation of children below the age of 12.

She said in her ward, “there were seven stillborn babies that had not been buried due to financial challenges”.

Such a service, Moyo said, would come in as a big relief as “residents should embrace cremation to save burial space”.

Councillor Concilia Mlalazi added that the cremation of young children was not a new practice, as “it was there in the past”.

Councillor Febbie Msipha, on the other hand, urged that wide consultations should be done before implementing the prohibition on child burials in favour of cremation.

She recommended to have many burials in a single grave.

“This multi-burial on one grave or double interment should be extended not only to couples, but to other members of the family as well,” the council minutes read.

In response, the health services director Sibanda explained that there were a lot of challenges surrounding burials of stillborn babies.

He said there were con artists at the city’s hospitals who collected money from parents of stillborn babies claiming to assist them with burial arrangements.

“Stillborn babies were collected from various hospitals after payment and then dumped at Mpilo Central Hospital mortuary,” he said.

Having this cremation facility would assist “a lot”, said the health services director.

Councillors concurred that residents should be encouraged to embrace cremation to save burial space and noted that most deaths occurred between zero to three years and there were very low numbers of death for 12-year-olds.

The council also noted that graves of zero to 12 years were the most neglected in most council cemeteries.

It was resolved that a notice would be issued in the Press to residents as well as on radio since there was a slight acceptance of cremation among the adult population, while some of them did not support double interment.

Town clerk Christopher Dube advised councillors to engage residents on the matter.

In November 2019, BCC also proposed mandatory cremation for people aged 25 and below as it grappled with shortage of burial space.


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