Council faces shortage of undertakers Mr Innocent Ruwende

Herald Reporter

A SHORTAGE of undertakers, some of whom have been stricken by Covid-19, has resulted in Harare City Council failing to provide graves to bereaved families at Warren Hills cemetery.

The local authority has 40 undertakers with each expected to dig at least two graves per day, but the numbers have decreased as some of the undertakers are not reporting for duty.

Currently, council is charging $2 300 for a grave at Warren Hill cemetery.

Ward 15 councillor, Tichavona Mhetu attributed the challenges to under-staffing, but acting council spokesperson Mr Innocent Ruwende said they were overwhelmed with an increase in burials.

“We are not understaffed, but overwhelmed by the increase in numbers of people being buried at Warren Hills. Before Covid-19, we used to have 18 burials per day and we had a team of 40 undertakers, each digging two graves per day and they would change shifts.

“Now we are having more than 20 burials a day and this has affected our manpower as some of the undertakers are not coming to work due to Covid-19 and they are in isolation. We still have enough space for burials and we have also engaged funeral parlours that will be assisting us with undertakers,” he said.

Clr Mhetu had expressed concern about the situation at Warren Hills cemetery saying that there were a number of factors affecting operations at the cemetery chief among them being the shortage of undertakers.

“Council seems to be understaffed because if you notice before Covid-19 people would buy a grave and get it tomorrow, but the situation is no longer possible now because those people working at Warren Hills are few.

“The application process to get a grave is still being done under the normal process and that is no longer sustainable.

“If you want to buy a grave you will be allocated one on the same day, but the availability of the grave now becomes a problem because of the demand due to Covid-19.

“The undertakers are few and they are now allocating one undertaker to dig a grave when they are supposed to be two per grave,” he said.

He added that the council owned graves are in a sorry state compared to privately owned cemeteries which are well maintained.

On PPEs, Mr Ruwende said staff working on grave sites have PPEs and as council they have made sure that they are well protected and safe before conducting any burial.

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