Bulawayo councillors have proposed to offer free cremation services the residents amid a low uptake due to cultural and religious beliefs.
The local authority has been faced with a huge demand for burial space with the city`s cemeteries running out of space.
In 2018, councillors pushed for mandatory cremation of those under 25 years of age but the motion never received any traction.
According to the latest Health, Housing and Education Committee report, in December 2019 the local authority oversaw 403 burials and only five cremations.
Debating on the motion of cemeteries in the City, Wednesday, at a Full Council meeting, Ward 5 Councillor Felix Mhaka said the local authority should make cremation free so as to encourage residents to opt for the service.
“As a city, we are running out of space in cemeteries, the number of cremations has risen to up to about five which is a positive sign, as a City we need to come up with a mechanism to encourage our citizens so that they shift their focus from our traditional methods and realise that cremation is the way forward,” said Cllr Mhaka.
“As a council, we need to come up with ways which will encourage people to go for cremation, for example, let me propose for cremation to be free for our citizens so that for those who find it hard to pay for the graves they can go for cremation.”
In response to the proposal, Ward 4 Councillor Silas Chigora said monthly statistics showed no improvement in the uptake of cremation.
“If we look at the statistics per month, we bury an average of 300-400 every month and people who opt for cremation are about 12 to 15 per month,” said Cllr Chigora.
“Now if there is no incentive we are not doing anything, we will continuously bury and lose space, we, therefore, need an intervention as council as an incentive to say please consider cremation as an option”.
Councillor Chigora said there was a need for the city fathers to seriously look into the issue so as to encourage residents to opt for cremation.
In addition, Ward 19 Councillor Alderman Clayton Zana said the service could not be availed for free to residents due to the related costs.
“We need to find ways of encouraging people to do the ‘unusual’, it is very nice when we use English rather than the local language ‘ukutshiswa’.
“Whilst we need to engage other ways of encouraging people. I think it is important that we note that the operations of that system so I don’t think as of now we can manage to say let it be for free,” he said.
“I think people should be proud to say I can have the ashes to keep, it is rather encouraging as we cannot take the route to offer it for free”.
Alderman Zana said the local authority faced challenges to set up the cremation facility thus it cannot be offered for free.
“When you look at the history of cremation you will note we had problems to make it operational, let us look at other ways that can encourage people to go through the process rather than to say we can offer it for free,” he said.