Johannesburg carries the stories of many in its graveyards and cemeteries. There are 35 cemeteries and two crematoria under the custodianship of Johannesburg City Parks. As the city continues to develop and grow, so does the pressure on burial space and, in 2006, the City of Johannesburg set aside R20-million for the development of new cemeteries.
When the Waterval Cemetery in Midrand opened in 2006, it was the first new burial ground opened in Johannesburg for nearly a quarter of a century. In Joburg’s Region 1, the 200-hectare cemetery has space for 720 000 burials and should provide burial space for about 50 years.
A second new cemetery – Diepsloot Memorial Park – was opened in April 2007, providing much-needed space for 120 000 burials. The park embraces South Africans as people with diverse cultures and beliefs and breaks away from the Eurocentric models favoured in the past. Heritage elements, indigenous flora and the existing habitat are naturally linked to fulfil a dual purpose as a cemetery and an environmental conservation area. It received a silver award in the whole city environmental management category at the prestigious Liveable Community (LivCom) Awards , organised by the United Nations, in London in November 2007.
A third new Cemetery developed in the South of the City, called Olifantsvlei and it is 400 Ha Cemetery capable of holding 800 000 initial burials. Olifantsvlei is situated on the Golden Highway opposite Bush Koppies Township, has all the hallmarks of Nature Conservation area cum Cemetery. The design was mad to include the Bio-diversity i.e. Stream passing by, the Wall has dedicated opening at the bottom to accommodate the movement of small Animals found in the areas . the Cemetery has been classified as a Berm Cemetery i.e. it only accommodated the erections of Head Stones as memorial stones, for improved aesthetics for the maintenance of the Cemetery.
The Cemetery and Crematoria By-laws for the City of Johannesburg covers the disposal of bodies, coffins and graves, funerals, re-opening of graves and exhumations, care of graves, memorials and inscriptions, cremations and memorial work in crematoria, indigent persons, and prohibited acts.
To download the By-laws, click here
Johannesburg carries the stories of many in its graveyards and cemeteries. There are 35 cemeteries and two crematoria under the custodianship of Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo.
To walk the cemeteries of Johannesburg is to explore the city’s own history and the following five cemeteries, which are under the control of Johannesburg City Parks, are regarded as important heritage sites.
Braamfontein CemeteryWithin Braamfontein Cemetery, which is on the corner of Graaff and Smit streets, stands the dynamite explosion monument, the granite memorial dating from 1896. It was erected in memory of 71 white and coloured persons who died in an explosion at Braamfontein station on 19 February 1896. The cemetery also houses the memorial of Enoch Mankayi Sontonga, the composer of South Africa’s national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, who died in 1905 when he was 32. Valliammai and Nagappen, early martyrs of Mahatma Gandhi’s passive resistance movement, are also buried here.
Brixton CemeteryThe historically significant Brixton Cemetery, in Crouse Street and Brixton Drive, was laid out in 1912. A war monument near the main entrance commemorates South Africans who died in the First World War. Along main drive, there is a second First World War monument in memory of the South African Scottish regiment
Westpark CemeteryThe graves of some of South Africa’s most famous sons and daughters can be found at Westpark Cemetery, located along Beyers Naude Drive in Montgomery Park:
- Alfred Nzo, the former ANC struggle veteran and democratic South Africa’s first minister of foreign affairs.
- Joe Modise, an ANC veteran and the former commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe. He was the first minister of defence in post-apartheid South Africa.
- Nkosi Johnson, a young boy who featured prominently in the campaign against HIV/AIDS.
Newclare CemeteryThe Newclare Cemetery houses Walter Sisulu Memorial Park, developed in memory of the great former veteran leader of the African National Congress, and a mentor of former president Nelson Mandela.
Avalon CemeteryAvalon Cemetery is the final resting place of many prominent persons and heroes of the liberation struggle, including Joe Slovo, Helen Joseph, the ANC’s Lilian Ngoyi, and Zephania Mothopeng, the fiery leader of the Pan African Congress. The graves of Tsietsi Mashinini, one of the heroes of the 1976 uprisings, and Hector Pieterson, the first victim of the 1976 uprising, are to be found at Avalon. A memorial to the victims of the 1976 uprisings has been erected here. The Mendi Memorial, built in memory of the soldiers who died with the sinking of the ship Mendi in February 1917, can also be found in Avalon.
The History of Joburg's Cemetries
The first cemetery in Johannesburg was laid out in 1886 on the corner of Bree and Harrison streets. Find out more about the fascinating history of Joburg’s burial sites.
Burial Trends & Traditions
Cemeteries should keep pace with the times: with the best theories of religion, science and economics. Read more about burial traditions and evolving trends.
Cemeteries Call Centre: (011) 712-6602
Queries: (011) 712-6673
Email: Mohlatlego Kaapu