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The cultural significance of burial sites among Africans: a case study of Inanda.

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Currently, South Africa is faced with the shortage of burial space to cater for the vast number of deaths due to a growing older population, increasing communicable and other noncommunicable diseases. It has been announced that most grave sites in KwaZulu-Natal and the Gauteng Province are full. Efforts by municipalities to use alternative solutions to the grave crisis were met with firm resistance from cultural and religious groups. Many people regard cemeteries as more than a place for burial, but of spiritual and cultural significance. Recently, government authorities have been working timelessly to encourage families to adopt cremation as a space saving strategy. Cremation is an act of disposing the deceased by burning the bodily remains. However, cremation is widely rejected and unpopular among the Zulu people. In the Zulu culture, death is considered as a transition to the afterlife of ancestors, therefore cremation is seen as contradicting with the Zulu culture and can result in a curse for the surviving family. The main objective of the study is to determine whether the community prefers alternative burial methods to the conventional ones. In addition, the study investigates the influence of culture, and its role in determining the choice of burial method amongst the Zulu people. For this study data was obtained from face to face in-depth interviews and key informant interviews. The in-depth interviews and key informant interviews were held in Inanda Township. The findings of this study suggest that culture and religion play an important role in determining the manner in which people want their deceased to be buried. In addition, the Zulu people of Inanda indicated that they were against the proposed alternatives to burial as they regard them to be disrespectful of the deceased and their cultural beliefs in the ancestors. The participants emphasized the need for awareness and education on the scarcity of burial space. The study suggests the need for educating people about the burial space crisis and the possible alternatives to burial. The study recommends the involvement of the community in identifying alternatives that will not compromise traditional and religious beliefs.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.