JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (Reuters) -- AIDS-hit South Africa is running short of cemetery space and residents of its main city, Johannesburg, need to consider "nontraditional" burials, including cremation, Mayor Amos Masondo said on Wednesday.
Masondo said 24 of the city's 35 cemeteries were already at full capacity and, although enough spaces remain for the foreseeable future, other options must now be considered.
"The city would like to make an appeal to residents to consider amongst other options, stack burials and cremations," the SAPA news agency quoted Masondo as saying at the opening of a new cemetery on the outskirts of the city.
South African officials have repeatedly warned in recent years of a looming shortage of burial plots, attributed in part to rapid urbanization and a cultural reluctance among African families to consider options such as cremation.
Masondo suggested that families could begin to double up with "stack burials" at existing, family-held gravesites.
Masondo did not explicitly mention South Africa's HIV/AIDS crisis, which infects about one in nine of the country's adults, but analysts say the epidemic is directly to blame for rising mortality rates in the country.
Masondo urged Johannesburg residents to respect existing graveyards and not to take them over for ramshackle temporary housing.
"Respecting those who are no more can add so much meaning to the land of the living," he said.