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Chapter 5:04


Cemeteries Act

Acts 3/1883, 37/1938 (ss. 3 and 8), 7/1944 (s. 3), 22/1946, 29/1951 (s. 2), 52/1954 (s. 2), 49/1962 (s. 18), 21/1963, 61/1966 (s. 70), 12/1973 (s. 270), 3/1979 (s. 108), 8/1988, 22/2001 (s. 4); R.G.N.s 153/1963, 347/1964, 217/1970.



  1. Short title.
  2. Removal of trustees.
  3. Trustees may hold and mortgage land.
  4. Vesting of land in trustees.
  5. Grants of land may be made.
  6. Local authorities may grant money.
  7. Powers of trustees.
  8. Restriction as to vaults.
  9. Provision for burial of the poor.
  10. Trustees may make rules.
  11. Quorum of trustees.
  12. Majority to decide questions.
  13. Monuments and tombstones.
  14. Position of monuments and tombstones.
  15. Removal of monuments and tombstones.
  16. Burials in places where the exclusive right has been acquired by individuals.
  17. Right to keep up and maintain tombstones.
  18. How chapels may be erected.
  19. Ministers’ right of access to chapels.
  20. Accounts to be kept.
  21. Penalty for not keeping accounts.
  22. Destruction, damage or defacement of monuments prohibited.
  23. Damages for injuries not wilful.
  24. Animals found trespassing may be impounded.
  25. Cemeteries to be deemed “public places”.
  26. Trustees and employees may arrest persons contravening this Act.
  27. Fines and penalties to go to trustees.
  28. Local authority may establish or take over cemeteries.
  29. Local authority deemed trustees.
  30. Consent to establish cemetery.
  31. Minister may issue closing order.
  32. Burial in vaults.
  33. Upkeep and closure of cemeteries, and removal of human remains.

AN ACT to facilitate the establishment of public cemeteries and to provide for the management thereof; and to provide for the establishment, maintenance and taking over by local authorities of cemeteries, for the closing of cemeteries and for other matters incidental thereto.

[Date of commencement: 10th June, 1891.]

1    Short title

This Act may be cited as the Cemeteries Act [Chapter 5:04].

                       2    Interpretation

In this Act—

“cemetery” means a public cemetery;

“local authority” means a municipal council, town council or rural district council;

“Minister” means the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development or any other Minister to whom the President may, from time to time, assign the administration of this Act; “trustee” means a person appointed as trustee in terms of section three.

                       3    Trustees

The Minister may appoint trustees, being not fewer than three and not more than seven, for the management of any cemetery, and every such appointment shall be notified in the Gazette.

                       4    Removal of trustees

The Minister may remove any trustee and upon the removal, death or resignation of any trustee, appoint another in his place.

                       5    Trustees may hold and mortgage land

The trustees shall have power to acquire, hold and alienate land for the purposes of this Act, and may raise money on mortgage of any land so held.

                       6    Vesting land in trustees

The legal estate in all lands held by the trustees in trust for the purposes of this Act shall vest in the trustees for the time being, and the production of the Gazette containing a notice of the appointment of any trustee, accompanied by a solemn declaration that such trustee then holds office, shall be sufficient proof of the appointment and capacity of such trustee.

                       7    Grants of land may be made

Grants of land for the establishment or extension of any cemetery under this Act may be made— (a) in the case of State land, by the President; (b) in the case of land vested in—

  • a municipality or town, by the council thereof proceeding in accordance with section 152 of the Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29:15];
  • a rural district council, by the council proceeding in accordance with paragraph 1 of the First Schedule to the Rural District Councils Act [Chapter 29:13].

                       8    Local authorities may grant money

A local authority may make grants-in-aid for the establishment or the maintenance of any cemetery established under this Act.

                       9    Powers of trustees

The trustees shall have power to do all or any of the following things—

  • to enclose any land held in trust for the purposes of this Act with proper and sufficient walls, rails or fences;
  • to erect suitable gates or entrances;
  • to lay out and ornament the cemetery in such manner as is most suitable and convenient for the burial of the dead;
  • to embellish the cemetery with walks, avenues, roads, trees and shrubs;
  • to preserve, maintain and keep in a clean and orderly state and condition and to cause to be so maintained and kept the whole of the cemetery and its walls and fences and all monuments, tombstones, enclosures, buildings, erections, walks, trees and shrubs therein;
  • to sell, under such conditions and restrictions as they think proper, the exclusive right of burial or of constructing vaults with the exclusive right of burial therein either in perpetuity or for a limited period, in such parts of the cemetery as may be appropriated for that purpose;
  • to fix a scale of fees payable for any burial plot and on any vault or grave being dug or made and on any monument or tombstone being erected or placed in any part of the cemetery;
  • to permit any grave to be dug or made in the cemetery and any monument or tombstone to be erected or placed in any part of the cemetery as they may think fit, upon payment to them of the fees fixed in the scale of fees;
  • to define the positions of all graves and vaults permitted to be made in the cemetery, the depth of the graves and construction of coffins to be admitted into vaults, and the covering of vaults so as to prevent the escape of noxious exhalations;
  • to protect the buildings, monuments, tombs, shrubberies, plantations and enclosures therein and thereof from disturbance or damage;
  • to make such arrangements as they think fit for conveying, or for regulating and facilitating the conveyance, of the bodies of the dead from the place of death to any cemetery;
  • to do and perform or cause to be done and performed all such acts, matters and things as may be necessary and proper for any of the purposes of this Act.

10 Restrictions as to vaults

Every vault shall be so constructed that no portion thereof shall be above the level of the earth immediately adjoining or surrounding the said vault.

11 Provision for burial of the poor

The trustees shall cause to be set apart a portion of the cemetery for the burial of poor persons free of charge and shall cause to be buried therein the body of any poor person upon production of an order for that purpose from the district administrator.

12 Trustees may make rules

  • The trustees shall have authority to make rules for the execution of their powers under this Act, for regulating their proceedings and the duties of their employees and for preserving order at and convening their meetings.
  • Rules made in terms of subsection (1) shall not be contrary to this or any other Act, nor to conditions of any grant or transfer of land held by the trustees.
  • Rules made in terms of subsection (1) shall be submitted for the approval of the Minister and shall take effect when approved and published in a statutory instrument.

13 Quorum of trustees

If the number of trustees appointed is three, the powers conferred by this Act may be executed by any two of them, and if the number is four or more, such powers may be executed by any three of them.

14 Majority to decide questions

The majority of the votes of the members present at any meeting of trustees shall determine all questions which may be discussed or considered at such meeting.

15 Chairman

  • The trustees shall choose one of their number to be chairman.
  • If the votes are in any case equally divided, the chairman shall have a casting vote in addition to his deliberative vote.

16 Monuments and tombstones

When any person desires to erect and place any monument or tombstone in any part of any cemetery he shall, before permission is given, submit a plan of the monument or tombstone proposed to be erected and placed to the trustees of the cemetery, who may withhold their permission and prevent the erection of any monument which appears to them to be inappropriate or unbecoming.

17 Position of monuments and tombstones

The trustees shall fix and determine the position of any monument which may be proposed to be erected according to the description, size and character thereof, having reference to the general plan for ornamenting the cemetery in an appropriate manner.

18 Removal of monuments and tombstones

If any monument, tomb or other erection has been built or erected contrary to the terms and conditions upon which permission to erect or construct the same was granted, or if such terms and conditions or the regulations of the cemetery have not been complied with, the trustees may cause such monument, tomb or other erection to be taken down and removed.

19 Burials in places where the exclusive right has been acquired by individuals

Before any body is permitted to be interred in any vault or in any place of burial, the exclusive right to which for burial purposes has been granted, sold or let by the trustees as a family or private burial place, the trustees or any employee of theirs may require satisfactory proof that the person for the time being entitled as owner to the exclusive right of burial in such vault or other place has consented or would not object to such interment taking place therein.

20 Right to keep up and maintain tombstones

Any person digging or making any vault, grave or tombstone or erecting or placing any monument in any cemetery by and with the permission of the trustees, upon payment of the prescribed fees, shall, subject to the terms and conditions of that permission, be entitled to maintain and keep up or to have maintained and kept up, as the case may be, that vault, grave, monument or tombstone for the sole and separate use of such person and his representatives for ever or for such time as by those terms and conditions may be stipulated.

21 How chapels may be erected

When the members of any religious denomination desire at their own expense to build in any cemetery a suitable mortuary, church or chapel for the performance of the rites and ceremonies in the burial of the dead according to the usages of such denomination, if the plans, specification, elevations and models thereof, and other buildings and conveniences thereto, are first submitted to and approved by the trustees, the trustees may permit the same to be erected and built within such part of the cemetery as may be set apart for such denomination upon such terms as may be agreed upon.


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