Family upset as vandalism haunts graves
Thieves a step ahead of security
FAMILIES visiting the Khayelitsha cemetery over the festive season were distraught to find their loved-ones’ graves had been vandalised.
In one case the concrete slab on the grave had been smashed, the grave partly excavated and the coffin was partly visible.
They have slammed the city for being “careless and inconsiderate” in their maintenance of graveyards.
But the city says it cannot afford 24-hour security at all the cemeteries.
An emotional Mfuneko Puwani of Gugulethu said his family, including his wife Nomfuneko, children and other relatives, had gone to the cemetery on Christmas day to pay homage to his late parents.
They found the graves had been dug up and the coffins were partially visible.
“The concrete covering on the graves had been broken and the brass fencing was gone. My parents died in 2001, so understandably we are still in mourning, and seeing their caskets showing like that seriously troubled us.”
They used sand to cover up the coffins and “practically rebury my parents”.
Puwani, a sangoma, said their mostly traditional family had been so upset that everyone had wept. They felt that their ancestors had been vio- lated.
Another grieving family, the Bhukuzas of Mfuleni, said their grandfather’s grave, which had been enclosed with marble slabs and thick glass windows, had also been destroyed.
The cemetery is in a poor state: The gates and slab fencing is broken, while caretaker Poto Fani’s shelter has no roof.
The families blame the municipality for “not doing something” about the theft.
However, cemetery co-ordinator, Susan Brice, said security was hard to maintain, and there were problems at burial grounds all over the city.
“Complaints of theft are received from time to time and are unfortunately not unique to Khayelitsha Cemetery. Gravesites in Delft, Maitland, Strand, Kuils River and Ocean View have similar problems. The city is challenged by the difficulty of funding security at cemeteries across Cape Town.”
Brice said while there was security at some of these cemeteries, it was mostly “ineffective and impossible to employ on a 24-hour basis”.
Previous efforts to prevent vandalism and theft had not always worked.
Brice said overhead lighting had been proposed, but thieves stole the electrical cables.
Locking of gates was ineffective as thieves made holes in fences.
In some cases the gates themselves were stolen.
Fani, who has worked at the Khayelitsha cemetery for 22 years, said he had given up trying to prevent thieves from stealing from the graves, and said the police were “no help”.
Harare councillor Xolani Nyanga said he was engaging with the community to come up with ways to secure the cemetery.
The Harare community has accused drug addicts of the vandalism and theft.
Cynthia Solwandle said youngsters looking for money to buy tik often stole metal from graves to sell as scrap.
Brice said thieves were attracted mostly by brass and other metals, as well as granite and marble, for which they could get easy cash.
“But because 60 percent of South Africans prefer to be buried, these problems continue to affect people in areas.”
She added they were considering having regular vehicle patrols by the city’s law enforcement department and private companies.
VANDALISED: The fence around this grave was stolen.
SADDENED: Nomfuneko Puwani and her two-year-old daughter Avika visit a friend’s run-down grave.