Section 24 of the CONSTITUTION OF SOUTH AFRICA, 1996, (ACT NO. 108 OF 1996) states that everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being, and to have the environment protected through reasonable legislative measures. Environmental Health Practitioners are appointed in terms of the NATIONAL HEALTH ACT, 2003 (ACT NO 61 OF 2003) and has the legislative responsibility to enforce legislation to protect the general public.
Environmental Health Practitioners perform functions as listed in the SCHEDULE OF THE SCOPE OF PROFESSIONS OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH (GOVERNMENT NOTICE R888 OF 26 APRIL 1991). Nine (9) key performance areas are listed as the roles and functions of Municipal Health Services of which one is the disposal of the dead.
The disposal of the dead is governed by THE REGULATIONS RELATING TO THE MANAGEMENT OF HUMAN REMAINS, NO. R.363 OF 22 MAY 2013 (R363) promulgated under the NATIONAL HEALTH ACT, 2003 (ACT NO 61 OF 2003).
Disposal of the dead involves;
- The monitoring of funeral undertakers, mortuaries, embalmers, crematoriums, graves and cemeteries for compliance; and
- The management, control and monitoring of exhumation, reburial and the disposal of human remains.
The Municipal Health Department of the Garden Route District Municipality is responsible for the issuing of a Certificate of Competency to an operator who carries out any of the abovementioned activities.
To obtain a Certificate of Competency, the following process must be followed:
- A written application must be submitted to the relevant authority in the area of jurisdiction where the premises is located (Garden Route District Municipality).
- After evaluation and careful consideration of the application, an Environmental Health Practitioner will conduct a site visit.
- If the Environmental Health Practitioner is of the opinion that the premises comply with the relevant legislation, a Certificate of Competence will be issued for a premises.
Take note: a Certificate of Competency is valid for a period of two (2) years from the date issued, therefore the Owner or Manager must apply in writing for a new certificate.
New funeral undertakers are required to follow a public participation process, before submitting an application for a Certificate of Competence. A notice must be published in the local newspaper, not less than 21 days, before submitting an application. The notice must be published in the main language of the area, as well as an additional language.
The notice shall contain all the relevant information of the local authority where the application will be submitted, to allow the opportunity for the public to submit any comments with substantiated representations to such local authority.
During regular inspections it is the responsibility of the Environmental Health Practitioner to ensure that the following facilities are available on the premises to ensure compliance with Regulation 363, namely;
- A preparation room for the preparation of human remains;
- Change-rooms, separate for each sex, for the use by the employees employed at such premises;
- Refrigeration facilities for the refrigeration of human remains;
- Facilities for the washing and cleansing of utensils and equipment inside the building;
- Facilities for the cleansing of vehicles on such premises, equipped with approved drainage systems,
- Facilities for the loading and unloading of human remains; and
- Facilities for backup source electricity, in the case of power failure.
Exhumation and reburials of human remains
No exhumations and reburials of human remains shall take place without the written consent and/or approval from relevant local government or a court order issued by a magistrate. An exhumation approval cannot be issued without a reburial permit. These permits shall only be granted on condition that the exhumation of the human remains is done by a registered undertaker.
An exhumation must take place:
- When the cemetery is not open to the public.
- Under the supervision of the officer-in-charge.
- In the presence of a member of the South African Police Services (SAPS).
- Under the supervision of an Environmental Health Practitioner.
It is the responsibility of the Environmental Health Practitioner to monitor the process to ensure that no health nuisance or hazard is caused and/or arise during the exhumation.
Any complaints related to the operations and/or activities of funeral undertakers, mortuaries or crematoriums, must be logged at the respective Regional offices within the Garden Route District Municipality.