What that was meant to mean was that only families, communities or individuals who had “booked” space in the graveyard would have any hope of finding room there when they needed it. The rest, in their millions, had no option but to settle for space elsewhere – including at sites well outside the city.
But surprise, surprise, burials have continued to be held at the Kinondoni Cemetery, and it has not been only at the reserved VIP “wing”.
What is even more startling is that the ministerial, municipal, cemetery or other authorities concerned do not appear to have seen or felt the need to keep the stunned public in the loop on the situation on the ground.
One consequence of this lack of relevant information may be the eruption of rumour upon rumour in the city and beyond with respect to what is actually going on and why.
This may include ‘speculation’ that, in fact, the cemetery ran out of public burial space as long ago as when it was announced years ago that any graves dug there since that time are but “mere replacements”.
This would suggest that there is demand for the re-use of grave sites within the cemetery – which, by extension, would necessitate the mounting of new graves on old and supposedly forgotten ones or exhuming whatever lay in the years-old graves for subsequent relocation.
But there is ample evidence from many parts of the world that the re-use of space already used for burial, and therefore necessitating the relocation of the remains of the dead, can cause be considerably distressing.
At least one media survey found several years ago that there was a bewildering shortage of handy graveyards in Dar es Salaam. Kinondoni Cemetery was easily cited as the most notorious, the other burial sites in the city also affected by then including those in the Mwananyamala kwa Kopa, Mburahati, Magomeni, Kisutu, Upanga, Sinza kwa Remi, Hananasif, Chang’ombe and Temeke Wailesi suburbs.
As if this was not bad enough, or so the survey showed, cemeteries in Dar es Salaam are no longer the ‘sacred’ places they used to be regarded as – what with all manner of criminal activities going on deep inside graveyards.
Reining in criminal elements frequenting those areas was, at least by the look of things, as easy to ensure as would be reducing to zero the number of cases of body exhumations to pave the way for grave re-use – as all that was needed was tighter security including concrete-fencing of graveyards.
The way one’s loved ones are laid to rest is no joking matter. That is precisely why the way cemeteries are treated counts for much in all communities where respect for human dignity still has pride of place.
Tanzania remains one such civilised and caring “community”, and this makes us feel compelled to demand that all concerned answer this question: Has Kinondoni Cemetery run out of burial space or hasn’t it?
It would serve really useful purpose for the answer to cover wide enough ground to relate to the state and status of cemeteries in all our urban areas and elsewhere in the country.