Man opens case over ‘her­itage crime’


A DUR­BAN en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist has em­barked on a one­man court cru­sade to save a plot of land, once used as an In­dian ceme­tery and cre­ma­to­rium, from what he says is his­tor­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal ruin.

Kuben Samie, who works for the eThekwini Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, says his ap­pli­ca­tion, which was launched in the Dur­ban high court this week, is made in his pri­vate ca­pac­ity and in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

The two­hectare site in Cato Manor — an area rich with In­dian and African cul­ture and her­itage — is pri­vately owned by the Cato Manor In­dian Ceme­tery and Cre­ma­to­rium As­so­ci­a­tion.

In his court pa­pers, Samie says he had known about the ceme­tery from a young age and “re­gard it as an im­por­tant re­flec­tion of the his­tory and cul­ture of the peo­ple of In­dian ori­gin in South Africa”.

“It is zoned pub­lic open space reser­va­tion. It also falls within DMoss — a sys­tem of open spa­ces of some 74 ha of land and wa­ter in the city — is lo­cated within the 1:100 year flood­plain and has a river run­ning through part of it,” he said.

Now, he said, it is be­ing used by a freight lo­gis­tics com­pany, Se­cona Freight Lo­gis­tics CC, which han­dles, stores and does re­pairs to freight con­tain­ers and a myr­iad of town plan­ning and en­vi­ron­men­tal laws are be­ing bro­ken.

His ap­pli­ca­tion lists the com­pany, the land own­ers, the city, and all rel­e­vant MEC’s and heads of depart­ment, her­itage body Amafa and the South African Her­itage Re­sources Agency as re­spon­dents.

The com­pany and the land own­ers have lodged in­ten­tion to op­pose the in­ter­dict ap­pli­ca­tion aimed at shut­ting down the op­er­a­tion and the mat­ter has been ad­journed for them to file pa­pers.

Samie said that he first no­ticed “in­fill­ing and dump­ing of rub­ble and soil ma­te­rial” in 2009.

For the past four years he has writ­ten to ev­ery con­ceiv­able gov­ern­ment depart­ment, opened a crim­i­nal charge, launched a Facebook page, and started an on­line pe­ti­tion.

While some peo­ple, in­clud­ing the pre­mier of KwaZulu­Na­tal and Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer promised to as­sist, noth­ing was ever done to shut down the op­er­a­tion.

“A num­ber of peo­ple have come forward to say their rel­a­tives are buried there.

“I sub­mit­ted a com­plaint to the South African Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion and re­ported the mat­ter as a her­itage crime.

“Their pres­ence on the site in­fringes a num­ber of Con­sti­tu­tional Rights, it poses dam­age and harm to en­vi­ron­men­tal re­sources and des­e­crates and de­grades the his­tor­i­cal her­itage and cul­tural value of the site,” he said.

“No ap­provals have been given for the present us­age.”

Se­cona di­rec­tor De­vadasan Marimuthoo told The Wit­ness that he had a le­git­i­mate lease with the own­ers of the land and de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

“The mat­ter is be­ing dealt with by my at­tor­neys,” Marimuthoo said.

The Wit­ness could not con­tact the as­so­ci­a­tion yes­ter­day. • newsed@wit­

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