The Mutare City Council has witnessed an increase in the demand for burial sites and has been forced to deploy its mechanized equipment to assist the manual grave diggers.
Council spokesman Spren Mutiwi said this has been done in order to ensure that the local authority does not run short of gravel.
“We have started to use a backhoe loader to facilitate the grave digging process which over the years is done manually,” Mutiwi said.
Due to the demand for graves the backhoe loader assists in trenching between one to two meters and the grave diggers complete the process.
“The grave diggers were now being overwhelmed by the workload and it was seen necessary to come up with a measure that speeds up the process so that we don’t have grave shortages.”
The backhoe loader scoops just the top soil about 60cm or so of the grave, which is more than two metres deep.
“The hard part is still being done manually by the grave diggers,” he said.
Mutiwi attributed the demand for graves to the new government regulations on burials.
“The new burial regulations are also fuelling the demand since some bereaved will not be able to take the measures which allows them to transport their loved ones to their preferred destinations,” Mutiwi said.
Manicaland has also been one of the provinces with a high mortality rate from the Covid 19 pandemic.
One gravedigger who requested anonymity pointed out: “There are now more Covid deaths. Before we would spend the whole day without any burial taking place.”
The government, under attack from citizens for its decision, defended its decision to limit funeral rites, pointing to the worsening coronavirus outbreak.
“We are in unusual days, where we are fighting for our very lives,” said government spokesman Nick Mangwana.
The backlash forced authorities to relent last week with a decision to allow bodies to be carried between cities as long as they are “hermetically sealed in triple coffins”.
But most funeral parlours do not offer that option.
Hermetically sealed coffins are too expensive for most Zimbabwe city dwellers, many of whom work in the informal sector.
“This is normally done when transporting bodies from other countries,” noted one undertaker.
“In this Covid-19 era, we only wrap the body in plastic first before placing it in a coffin.”