Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

While some investors purchase vacant land to develop houses or office spaces‚ on Thursday a private buyer bought land for almost R5m to home the remains of the dead.

The 8.5ha of land‚ earmarked for a cemetery‚ is in Winterveld near Soshanguve‚ Pretoria. It is expected to cater for at least 12‚500 graves.

The buyer and seller are remaining anonymous‚ for now. The area has been approved for zoning and site plans by the City of Tshwane and was auctioned at The High St Auction Company in Hyde Park on Thursday afternoon.

According to lead auctioneer‚ Joff van Reenen‚ this auction was a first of its kind in SA. Bidding started at R3m‚ with the land selling for R4.8m.

Could this be regarded a profitable sale? "Well‚ how do you place value on a cemetery?" Van Reenen chuckled. "But the sellers were very happy with the sale. We received more than 50 inquiries from as far as Durban and Cape Town, and people are saying this is a lucrative business and a good investment."

It seems more and more South Africans are willing to pay for their loved ones to not only rest in peace‚ but rest in private too. "There is a big demand for burials in private cemeteries‚" said Martin Brits‚ owner of dozens of Martins Funeral Service outlets across SA. "The reason for this is that not all government cemeteries are well-maintained. Instead of cutting the grass‚ they will at times wait for it to grow before setting just burning it. Unfortunately‚ there are not a lot of private cemeteries and it costs and arm and a leg to buy a grave in existing ones. I know of one place where the pricing is about R20‚000. But the place is presentable. It looks like a garden. It is like a phantom garden."

So‚ for the newest owner of this land for the dead‚ what can he do to make it more attractive to its potential customers? "Besides maintenance‚ it’s affordability‚" said Brits. "The price of graves has, in the last few years, skyrocketed‚ particularly in the East Rand where one can get a grave [at a government cemetery] for about R2‚500."

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