The columbarium at Warren Hills Cemetery, one of the few sections at the cemetery that were still presentable, is slowly deteriorating under the watch of the Harare City Council, which is failing to deliver service.
A columbarium is a structure for the respectful and usually public storage of funerary urns used to store cremated remains of the deceased, a practice common across a number of communities.
The wooden structure that makes up the columbarium at the cemetery is falling apart leaving some of the urns exposed.
Some of the wooden structure is being affected by termites while weeds and tall grass have weakened it.
Vandalism has also contributed to the deterioration of the structure. When The Herald visited the cemetery during the burial of the late Zimdancehall star Soul Musaka popularly known as Soul Jah Love on February 20, some people who were there for the event, were sitting on the columbarium while others took out the urns and started playing with them oblivious of their contents.
The state of the columbarium section is now mirroring the state of the rest of the cemetery which is covered in long uncut grass that has made it difficult to identify and access graves in the cemetery.
Almost all the burial units at the section are open and are in a dilapidated state due to lack of maintenance. Council’s corporate communications manager Mr Michael Chideme attributed the state of the columbarium to the vagaries of weather. “Some families used wooden materials to cover their niches and these have been affected by weather,” he said. “We have engaged a stakeholder who has already covered 12 niches and we have 23 remaining niches that still need to be covered. Most of the families that own the niches have relocated to other countries and a communication barrier now does exist.
“We need to consult or have the consent of the next of kin before we touch the niches or someone’s grave according to statutes otherwise we can be charged with tampering with one’s burial unit. But considering the above, we saw it fit to close them only that resources are not availed as we anticipated,” he said.
Mr Chideme said council was now using granite to cover the niches as it is more durable than wood.