Byo cremation machine seized by SA authorities

BULAWAYO - Tax authorities in South Africa have seized a crematorium machine from Japan headed for Bulawayo in a payment dispute, according to the city council. 

The machine is used in the disposal of a dead person’s body by burning it to ashes, typically after a funeral ceremony. 
The imported crematorium was supposed to complement the only one in the city situated at West Park Cemetery, used mainly by the Hindu community.

Bulawayo City Council chamber secretary Sikhangele Zhou said that the machine was being denied permission to leave the Durban port, the largest and busiest shipping terminal in sub-Saharan Africa.  
Council has spent thousands of dollars in a bid to settle the matter. So straining is the matter that council is contemplating dumping its “ineffective” lawyer handling the row.

The crematorium machine was impounded while on transit to Zimbabwe by South Africa’s Revenue Services (Sars) supposedly over “inadequate import documentation”.
This has left seething city fathers mulling engaging new lawyers to clear the hurdle which has since spilled into courts in the neighbouring country.

“In view of lack of clarity on the progress, the deputy mayor Tinashe Kambarami felt that council should communicate directly with Sars regarding the cremator. “He wondered if it was not prudent to engage new lawyers. “In response, the acting director of Health Services explained that the cremator was still in South Africa. The issue was being handled by lawyers. At the moment the lawyers had not given any feedback,” reads the latest council minutes.

Despite paying an initial deposit of  $97 120 some two years ago, the crematorium machine is yet to arrive in Zimbabwe’s second largest city. As some point, council resolved to raise about R120 000 to pay Sars in storage fees and secure the release of the machine but till today, there has been no progress in the matter. Chamber secretary Zhou explained how the cremator ended up being holed up in Durban.

“The cremator is in South Africa en route to Zimbabwe. Sars confiscated the cremator because of inadequate documents. The suppliers had not indicated that it was destined for Zimbabwe. This resulted in an unclear bill of landing. Council was being assisted in this matter by Majoko, a lawyer. He had assisted the suppliers to fight their case in the South African High Court.

“Majoko had been communicating with council well on this issue before he went on vacation in December, 2018. The issue of engaging new lawyers would be considered accordingly depending on progress,” Zhou said.  There has been a low uptake of cremation despite the local authority encouraging its residents to take up the idea as a substitute to conventional burial in a bid to limit the fast dwindling burial space in the city. 

Council has also been planning to introduce mandatory cremations for children under 12 years. On average, the monthly rate of cremation stands at 12, with the majority being those who culturally and religiously believe in that type of funeral.
This comes at a time when council is also struggling to account for a fleet of ambulances it purchased almost a decade ago, in another botched deal.

In 2010, the local authority awarded a Harare-based company, Tracker Engineering Private (Ltd), a tender to install a vehicle tracking system and another to Access Medical Corporation to supply four ambulances. 

According to the local authority, it lost a total of $303 000, after paying a deposit of $100 000 for the vehicle tracking system and $203 106 for the ambulances.Tax authorities in South Africa have seized a crematorium machine from Japan headed for Bulawayo in a payment dispute, according to the city council.


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