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. • email@example.com