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 South Africa's graveyard generation mourns

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Warrefok
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Location : Pretoria - South Africa
Registration date : 2007-10-18

PostSubject: South Africa's graveyard generation mourns   Thu Jan 03, 2008 5:13 pm

South Africa's graveyard generation mourns
Fran Blandy - Soweto, South Africa - 03 January 2008 08:38

It is Saturday in Soweto and the Aids-ridden township is geared up for its foremost weekend
activity: funerals.

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"Nowadays young people are dying like flies," reflects 27-year-old Modise Selebogo as the family of
a close friend throws soil on the grave at Avalon Cemetery, Soweto's biggest burial ground.

Music from another funeral not 10 feet away wafts over to intersperse with singing at this
graveside, where a young male victim of the Aids pandemic joins thousands of others below the
soil.

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South Africa, which recent United Nations's data has shown to have the worst rate of HIV
sufferers on the planet, is experiencing soaring death rates -- mostly among young people --
resulting in overcrowded cemeteries and weekends spent attending funerals.

These funerals are good business for the hundreds of burial companies who advertise on walls lining
the streets, with the graveside ceremony over in a matter of minutes as others wait in line.

"Nowadays the tents have to go somewhere else and the buses also. They have to be somewhere
at another funeral. The hearse also," says Selebogo.

About 45km south of Johannesburg lies South Africa's biggest informal settlement, Orange Farm,
where circumcision studies were first found to decrease risk of being infected with HIV.

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In African culture a funeral is a big occasion, necessitating the slaughter of a cow, and the best
coffin and after-burial spread that money can buy.

The cruel extent of the Aids pandemic means that families may still be reeling from the death of
one loved one when they have to bury someone else.

"I have encouraged our parishioners not to spend a lot on funerals. In the African way we have to
slaughter a cow, and prepare food -- you end up spending about R20 000," said Radebe.

"In other families people are dying in numbers and it's hard to bury them all."

However, while some could not be spared the embarrassment of a pauper's funeral, having to
borrow money from other members of the congregation, most could not be dissuaded from sending
their family members off in style.

"People, they will tell you: 'What will my neighbours say?' People end up being in debt for something
they could have avoided."

South Africa has about 5,5-million people out of a population of 48-million living with HIV, and a
recent report by the Institute of Race Relations showed how the pandemic has affected the
country.

"Deaths in the 30 to 34 age group increased by 212% between the years of 1997 and 2005," read
the report.

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At Avalon cemetery there are between 250 and 275 funerals a week, and the City of Johannesburg
is having to explore other options, including the opening of new cemeteries that would see the
country's hub through another 100 years.

Trying to get people to cremate their family members, which is not considered customary in African
culture, has proved "a challenge", says Alan Buff, technical support specialist for Johannesburg City
Parks.

He said the city was currently providing options for families to buy a burial space and for a reduced
cost to bury a second or third person in the same grave.

"It is not unusual, they do it in the United Kingdom. It saves a lot of space."

However, Skosana balks at this idea, saying people believed "if I have been buried on top of my
grandmother she will ask 'what do you want here on top of me?" -- AFP

M&G
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