Rage over graves
EFF members’ fiery response to demolition of tombstones
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.
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