Due to the increasing numbers of AIDS-related deaths, burial space in municipal cemeteries in the South African port city of Durban has become hard to find.
In South Africa, AIDS is filling some city cemeteries faster than new ones can be added. On weekends, funeral processions of cars, pickup trucks and standing-room-only chartered buses snarl traffic for miles around major graveyards. Burial insurance policies have become more exclusive, and burial clubs, which pool money for funerals, are going bankrupt. The pandemic is changing the way we bury the dead, said Alan Buff, who oversees Johannesburg's cemeteries. Five years ago, Johannesburg was accommodating 15,000 burials every year. Now we've got 20,000, and Johannesburg could expect to have 70,000 burials a year by 2010, at the height of the epidemic. Buff is also talking to the national Department of Mines about building a system of crypts and catacombs in disused shafts beneath Johannesburg. Frikke Booysen, a sociology professor at the University of the Free State in the city of Bloemfontein, said some families would rather take food from their own mouths than skimp on funerals for loved ones. Some people have started buying cheaper coffins - even cardboard boxes, he said. But tradition and culture demand that people avoid that. Cremation would be cheaper, but most African cultures do not believe in that either. They believe that a person should be buried in a coffin, in the ground. And normally, families around here will slaughter an ox - so they have to buy that too if they don't already have their own animal. Officials in Pietermaritzburg, in the KwaZulu-Natal province, say three of their public graveyards will run out of space this year. Johannesburg is purchasing land for four new sites to prepare for the closing of one of South Africa's largest graveyards, Avalon Cemetery, in three years. More than 200 bodies are buried there each week.(Source: AEGIS from: Los Angeles Times, 12 Jan 2003)