144 burial plots have been surveyed and received the blessing of the Muslim Judicial Council for allocation as a small Muslim allotment in the Rusthof Cemetery. The area will be demarcated for use by the Muslim community as it facilitates the religious requirement for the orientation of each grave to be towards the Qibla.
An official opening ceremony took place earlier this week when representatives from the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) visited the site to check Qibla for the graves. The Qibla is the direction facing towards the Kaaba in the sacred mosque in Mecca. This orientation is widely used by Muslims for their religious rites and rituals, particularly for the direction of prayer.
Among those in attendance were representatives from the Gordon’s Bay Islamic Society, Boland Islamic Council, Strand Muslim Council, the Nurul Islam Mosque and Majlisush Shura Al-Islami.
The new development was welcomed as it will alleviate pressure on many residents looking for affordable, public cemetery options to bury their loved ones in a manner that respects their religious practices. In the Helderberg area, there are no other cemeteries that accommodate Muslim burials, except for the privately-owned Strand Muslim Cemetery, which has reached full capacity and only offers the re-opening of family graves for further burials.
Before the Rusthof allotment, families would have to commute to Welmoed or Wallacedene cemeteries, being the nearest City Cemetery with available allotments for Muslim burials. This has brought some relief to those living in Gordon’s Bay and Strand as they can now bury their loved ones closer to home.
Event attendees also received an information pack with reading materials, to help them understand how to book grave plots in compliance with the City’s booking system. The City is legally required to have a list of mandatory documents on hand before any burial can take place.
Understanding the unique requirements for Muslim burial practices, booking co-ordinators have been assigned to assist with managing the process. For bookings at Rusthof Cemetery, the MJC along with the relevant Muslim burial societies, will nominate a co-ordinator.
A legally binding service agreement is also in place between the City and the MJC, which was entered into in 2015. It recognises that Muslims have select requirements for burial for religious reasons, and allows for them to exercise their religious right to bury as soon as possible after death.
As part of the day’s activities, the first grave was mechanically dug. The soil at Rusthof cemetery is particularly rich in clay, making the surface very hard. The impact on operations is that it is extremely difficult to prepare graves quickly, within a short period of time.
‘We will have to monitor the burial demand and potentially prepare two to three graves in advance per day. Also, digging may take place in a grave plot adjacent to an occupied one to ensure that the space afforded is filled systematically. If the need for more graves to be prepared increases, the City can provide for this, but it will be important to allow for some lead-time to make arrangements for staff to be at the premises with the necessary skills and equipment. Under no circumstances would a burial be able to take place without a facility staff member being present,’ said the Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Patricia Van der Ross.
The Recreation and Parks Department is exploring the possibility of extending Rusthof and Sir Lowry’s Pass cemeteries. This require extensive planning and authorisation in the long term as inputs are required from various practitioners including environmentalists, land use authorities, landscapers and bio-diversity experts.
Source: City Of Cape Town