Rage over graves

EFF mem­bers’ fiery re­sponse to de­mo­li­tion of tomb­stones

Talk of the Town - - Front Page - ROB KNOWLES

APALL of black smoke en­veloped Camp­bell Street out­side the Nd­lambe mu­nic­i­pal of­fices on Mon­day as EFF mem­bers burnt tyres in protest against the de­mo­li­tion and re­moval of grave­stones at an old dis­used gravesite at Es­leyini in Ne­mato.

EFF mem­ber, Xolisa Runeli, was most vo­cal on what he con­sid­ers an af­front to his an­ces­tors and the be­liefs of black peo­ple in gen­eral. Ac­cord­ing to Runeli his great-grand­fa­ther was buried at Es­leyini.

“This shows the great­est dis­re­spect. My great grand­fa­ther lived through apartheid and fought for this coun­try’s free­doms, and the mu­nic­i­pal­ity just breaks down his head­stone and ploughs over his grave. Where is my grand­fa­ther buried now? Where is his head­stone? How do I ask him and the an­ces­tors for help when I don’t even know where he is buried? Who would or­der such a thing to hap­pen?”

Runeli and 13 other EFF mem­bers had ap­peared at the Port Al­fred Mag­is­trate’s court that morn­ing to face charges re­lated to tres­pass­ing on 43 Air School prop­erty ear­lier this month, and Runeli him­self had to face other charges lev­elled against him for other al­leged of­fences. Af­ter the court ap­pear­ance, the EFF marched to Camp­bell Street to protest at the mu­nic­i­pal of­fices and then a del­e­ga­tion, along with mu­nic­i­pal man­ager Rolly Dumezweni, vis­ited the Es­leyini grave­yard.

The ceme­tery was de­void of head­stones al­though bro­ken bases can still be seen at the site. Fu­ri­ous

EFF mem­bers de­manded the mu­nic­i­pal­ity sus­pend those re­spon­si­ble and Dumezweni promised that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion would take place to de­ter­mine what ac­tion would be taken to nor­malise the sit­u­a­tion. “We must oc­cupy the mu­nic­i­pal of­fices,” was the clar­ion call of the EFF as they trav­elled back to town to re­sume their protest at the mu­nic­i­pal of­fices.

At one point, they forced their way into the coun­cil cham­bers and dis­rupted a meet­ing on the bud­get be­tween mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials and the Nd­lambe Ratepay­ers Fo­rum, man­han­dling NRF mem­ber Si­mon Oliver.

On Tues­day, the EFF made another at­tempt to dis­rupt traf­fic flow past the mu­nic­i­pal of­fices but dis­persed when mu­nic­i­pal work­ers and ANC Youth League mem­bers ar­rived at the scene and dis­rupted their protest.

In re­sponse to ques­tions about the gravesite, mu­nic­i­pal spokesman, Ce­cil Mbolekwa wrote: “The mat­ter of the Esi­leyini ceme­tery was in­ves­ti­gated by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. The ceme­tery in ques­tion is older than 50 years and not been in use for many years. There are path­ways criss-cross­ing the ceme­tery and nu­mer­ous com­plaints have been re­ceived by the com­mu­nity that the thick bush in patches led to crim­i­nals hid­ing and ei­ther rap­ing or rob­bing peo­ple us­ing th­ese path­ways.

“Early in May this year the mu­nic­i­pal­ity started clear­ing the alien veg­e­ta­tion and over­grown shrub that har­bour crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties. This was done by get­ting staff to clear around old tomb­stones and grave sites and to look out for tomb stones in the process to clear alien veg­e­ta­tion and open up ar­eas. Dur­ing this process no tomb stones were dam­aged or re­moved,” Mbolekwa in­sisted.

“Up un­til Mon­day June 18 only pos­i­tive feed­back was re­ceived by the com­mu­nity. It was only the EFF that made an is­sue re­gard­ing this. Notwith­stand­ing the pos­i­tive feed­back from the com­mu­nity re­sid­ing within that said area.”

The EFF has promised more protest ac­tion un­til the mat­ter is re­solved to its sat­is­fac­tion.

Pic­ture: ROB KNOWLES

AN­GRY RI­POSTE: EFF mem­bers set fire to tyres out­side the mu­nic­i­pal of­fices in Camp­bell Street on Mon­day in re­sponse to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s al­leged de­struc­tion of an old grave­yard in Ne­mato

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