Burial site angers harbour town residents
Residents of Walvis Bay have expressed their dismay at the health ministry for setting up a cemetery for Covid-19 deaths in close proximity of Narraville.
Residents of Extension 7 in the suburb were shocked when the first person that succumbed to Covid-19 was buried at the rapidly prepared site a stone’s throw away from their homes.
A petition is currently circulating on social media and has gained 1275 signatures since it was created on Wednesday, while a reliable source working at the burial site confirmed that the second funeral which was scheduled for yesterday (Wednesday) was postponed due to unknown reasons.
Anthea van Wyk, who created the petition, said that she feels someone needs to take charge and let the voices of the community be heard.
“I am not a heartless person and nor are those signing the petition. We are simply saying that the state needs to find an alternative solution for Covid-19 related deaths.”
Van Wyk said that the petitioners have sympathy for the families of the deceased.
“It could happen to any one of us tomorrow. Life is extremely unpredictable. But we are not satisfied with the placement of the cemetery and it is not right that the community members living in the area were not offered an opportunity to voice their opinions.”
The description section of the petition questions why Narraville was specifically chosen as a burial site for Covid-19 related deaths.
“The residents want to know why Narraville was chosen. They also want an explanation as to why that particular piece of land was allocated. They reason that persons who die due to Covid-19 should rather be cremated. This sounds like the best solution.”
Van Wyk feels that residents of the harbour town should hold those who made the decision accountable.
“We should not let this pass. For too long Narraville residents have been taken for granted and overlooked in many aspects. I ask that we stand together today and fight this injustice.”
She said that it appears that the decision was not well thought through.
“How many years have people been pleading for housing and land, and there was never any. Now they want to bury infected corpses right in front of our houses? They might as well do it in our back yards! Join me in my stance to fight for our rights as neighbours. Let them not succeed!”
The mayor of the harbour town Immanuel Wilfred said that the specific area in Narraville was already earmarked for a new cemetery some time ago.
He said that the municipality noted in 2019 that burial spaces in the Narraville cemetery are diminishing, hence a new cemetery is required.
The new Narraville cemetery which was proposed to be established on Erf 4044 of Narraville Extension 8, will cater for the needs of the town for the next 20 to 50 years. The approximate surface area covered by the cemetery site is 31 114 m2 (3.1 ha).
“The environmental impact assessment (EIA) clearance certificate was already granted to the municipality in 2019. Since the announcement of the Covid-19 related death in Walvis Bay, the municipality, the health ministry, local law enforcement and all relevant stakeholders were scouting possible areas in Walvis Bay as a possible burial site.”
The mayor explained that the existing cemeteries were considered as options.
“According to the Covid-19 death protocol, graves need to be dug to 2.5 metres deep and there needs to be ample space between Covid-19 graves and other graves. This was simply not possible at the existing cemeteries. Another option was the area near the prison, however to dig 2.5 metres deep we would have found water.”
Wilfred emphasised that the cemetery will be fenced off.
Residents are planning a demonstration against the burial site on Saturday.
Inspector Illeni Shapumba, community affairs commander, said that since we are in a state of emergency until September, no demonstrations are allowed during this time.
“The public should remember that there are other means and ways to voice their concerns. We should not resort to lawlessness. We can still express ourselves but within the arm of the law.”
He added that the public has been told on numerous occasions to not discriminate.
“We are proud of the fact that in Narraville there are more churches than shebeens, so the morality should be higher in this suburb. We cannot discriminate against the dead.”