Thieves en­sure dead can’t rest in peace

City con­sid­ers pa­trols to guard ceme­ter­ies

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - HE­LEN BAM­FORD

VAN­DALS have stripped the Jewish tem­ple at the Muizen­berg ceme­tery vir­tu­ally bare – even mak­ing off with the bur­glar bars in­stalled to pro­tect it.

Sig­mund Saf­fer, pres­i­dent of the Muizen­berg He­brew con­gre­ga­tion, said the tem­ple had to be de­mol­ished as any­thing that could be re­moved, had been stolen.

He said some peo­ple had even used the two cer­e­mo­nial basins in front of the tem­ple to clean their fish.

“They were beau­ti­ful carved basins with cop­per spig­ots which were used to gut fish. There would be scales ev­ery­where.”

Now mourn­ers have to bring their own 20 litre bar­rels of wa­ter to wash their hands dur­ing burial cer­e­monies.

Saf­fer said the tem­ple, or Ta­hara hall, was built in the early 1920s. “In those days bodies were brought here to be pre­pared for burial.”

But now, the bodies were pre­pared else­where and only the cof­fin was brought to the tem­ple which used to be able to ac­com­mo­date be­tween 30 and 40 peo­ple.

Saf­fer said the van­dal­ism had been re­lent­less over the past few years.

He said thieves broke in and stole the cop­per pip­ing and 3m high teak doors.

“Peo­ple started camp­ing on the ve­ran­dah around the tem­ple so we put in a trel­lis door to try to stop that, but they stole that as well.”

Saf­fer said the only thing that could not be stolen was the con­crete dome roof.

“It was be­yond a joke. The in­sur­ers were laugh­ing and so were the cops.”

He said that fix­ing the tem­ple be­came too ex­pen­sive so it was de­cided to de­mol­ish the struc­ture.

The new plan is to build a con­crete plat­form with a van­dal-proof roof for mourn­ers to use when they bury their loved ones.

But, un­til then, mourn­ers just have to make do.

Su­san Brice, ceme­tery co-or­di­na­tor in Cape Town’s parks depart­ment, said the city was un­able to pro­vide 24-hour se­cu­rity at its ceme­ter­ies as the cost would be pro­hib­i­tive.

Larger ceme­ter­ies, she said, were more vul­ner­a­ble to crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties such as theft and van­dal­ism as sur­veil­lance was dif­fi­cult and mis­con­duct was less likely to be ob­served by neigh­bour­ing res­i­dents.

Brice said the city was con­sid­er­ing ve­hi­cle pa­trols of the larger ceme­ter­ies, ei­ther by its own law en­force­ment depart­ment or by pri­vate se­cu­rity com­pa­nies.

An­other op­tion be­ing con­sid­ered was se­cu­rity lighting us­ing so­lar-pow­ered lights be­cause of ca­ble theft.

She said that ceme­tery gates had been re­placed and up­graded to pre­vent en­try at night and staff had been asked to lock the gates of ceme­ter­ies overnight.

Brice said metal plaques had been re­moved from memo­ri­als in var­i­ous ceme­ter­ies.

Gran­ite slabs as well as elec­tric­ity ca­bles and light fit­tings had also been stolen.

She said they now sug­gested to peo­ple to con­sider plas­tic (brass look-alike) plates and let­ter­ing on memo­rial works and to avoid in­stalling rail­ings around graves.

PIC­TURE: BREN­TON GEACH

NOTH­ING’S SA­CRED: Sig­mund Saf­fer, pres­i­dent of the Muizen­berg He­brew con­gre­ga­tion, at the site of the van­dalised and sub­se­quently de­mol­ished tem­ple.

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