Fam­ily up­set as van­dal­ism haunts graves

Thieves a step ahead of se­cu­rity

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - VUYO MABANDLA

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.

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