Posted by Tafadzwa Mukome
It has been the norm that a person’s final resting place is adorned with whatever the deceased’s family can afford , the famous one being the tombstone.
The Bulawyo City Council has however made a decision that will slowly erode the famous tradition amonst locals in favor of the erection of headstones only.
According to a statement released by the town Clerk Christopher Dube on Monday, in terms of the cemeteries act , the Bulawayo cemeteries regulation of 1967 and a resolution of a council meeting held last year , only headstones shall be erected on graves at Athlone cemetery and other new cemeteries.
The ban on tombstones has several effects that range from the business to the social side of issues. Grave monumetalists as they are commonly called have been in business since time immemorial , manifcaturing tombstones , a business which will soon shift to headstones only.
One grave monumentalist operating in the CBd has accused for starters the local authority of leaving them behind in the decision making process .
“ We are not happy because the issue involves a lot of stakeholders , the council has made the decision out of the blue . Consultations should have been made using our association. If the council had concerns we were going to sit down and discuss them. They should have consulted us .”
According to the manufacturers , clients make deposits for tombstones that they can pay for over a long period of time and be used when required , a system resembling that of buying graves in advance.
For some payments already made this brings up the question of who will facilitate re-imbursement funds to clients which have already paid for tombstones.
“ Some customers have been paying deposits for close to four years for tombstones so now if the council says people only erect headstones , who is going to reimburse customers their deposit monies ? Is it us or its council ? If it is us , it is quite unfortunate because the business environment we are operating in will not allow us to dig into our pockets and pay them back their money.”
The sector has provided jobs for several locals whose bosses say they might be faced with the prospect of cutting down on staff.
“Tombstones were generating a lot of money for us , currently their price ranges from ZWL $ 5 000 or USD $ 300. Headstones on the other hand are cheaper with a price of ZWL $ 1000. With a staff compliment of ten people if we are going to only produce headstones , I am left with no choice but to cut down on the number of employees working for me”.
Mfundisi Dube , a resident believes , that traditionally a tombstone signifies the whole area and length occupied by a grave and decisions whether to erect one or a headstone should lie with the family and not imposed on people.
Some families are said to have particular designs for tombstones which run in the family’s history and questions have been raised on whether this means they now have to abort family practices.
The city council believes the erection of headstones will facilitate easy and effective maintenance of cemeteries a point that has been questioned on how effectively it will be implemented as residents believe the local authority has failed dismally to maintain council recreational facilities like the famous Centenary Park and other residential parks in the city.
“ There is no use in city council imitating what we see on television those graves with headstones and lawns , they failed to keep the lawn green in parks and expect to do so at the cemeteries, I think they should just leave the tombstones alone as they were a way of maintaining the cemeteries.”
The ban on tombstones also extends to funeral parlors which have policies that provide the services , one questions the way forward with clients which have been paying for tombstone subscriptions over a period of years with hopes that their graves will be fully adorned .
The question will not be answered today as efforts to get in touch with some funeral parlors were fruitless by the time of writing as the writer was referred to the head office in the capital.