A Person Cremated in South Africa and the Law

A Person cremated in South Africa has strict regulations governing the disposal of the body. Each provincial government has a Cemeteries and Crematoria Act. If a body is not being disposed of by burial then it is likely that it will be cremated.

The legal guidelines regarding cremation, though exacting, are few in comparison to those concerning burial. From the outset it is important to mention that the government does not permit the cremation of unidentified persons.

This is to avoid the legal consequences should the deceased be identified at a later date as a person that belongs to a community that frowns upon cremation.

Required Documents

A Person cremated in South AfricaThree documents are required by law before cremation can be conducted:

  • A duly signed application form.
  • Medical certificates.
  • A burial order, also known as BI-14.

The burial order will ordinarily be taken by an undertaker to the Department of Home Affairs. However, if one has not been engaged the family of the deceased must see about obtaining the document.

Another document required is a medical certificate authenticated by the doctor who confirmed the death of the deceased. A second certificate from another medical practitioner is also required.

But if an autopsy was done on the body, the certificate issued by the pathologist who conducted the examination will be accepted in place of the other two. A body required by law to undergo an autopsy may not be cremated until the crematorium operator receives a certificate from the pathologist.

Further Documents Required for a Person Cremated in South Africa

An application for cremation must be submitted to the operator of the crematorium where cremation will take place. This form needs to be signed by either the next of kin of the deceased, the executor of the deceased’s estate or any other person authorised to act on behalf of the deceased.

Anyone who has satisfactorily shown why the other three parties were not available to sign the form can be allowed to make the application.

Among the details included in the form is a declaration that all medical and legal requirements after the death have been adhered to. The document should also state that cremation was the deceased’s chosen method of disposal of the body.

The declarations in the form must be made under oath in the presence of a Commissioner of Oaths and not before. The role of the commissioner is however played by the undertaker if one has been engaged.

A Person Cremated in South Africa – Procedure

First, as with burial, the body has to be prepared to undergo the procedure. Valuables should be removed from the deceased and the body wrapped in a disposable material. The coffin used for the ceremony must be made out of wood or materials derived from wood.

If ashes are to be scattered into the sea, this should be done while at sea some distance from the shore and not on the beach. The ashes should be carried out to sea at least 100 metres from the beach. The remains can alternatively be buried or scattered in a remembrance garden.

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