Cemetery in ruins

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A VISIT to the cemetery in Komani shows vandalised gravestones and a Wall of Remembrance where urns with human ashes have been broken open and destroyed.Earlier this week, a local resident called The Rep to say he was shocked to find the cemetery in a dilapidated state.

The Rep visited the cemetery and found that the Wall of Remembrance, which contains ashes of people who have been cremated, had fallen victim to vandals, with gaps in the wall and ash strewn outside.

Headstones of graves had been knocked over and damaged while cattle were roaming among the graves. A fence had been removed or stolen, giving the cattle access.

Retired funeral director Edric Russell said the problem had worsened over the past four years and people were saddened to see what had been done to the graves.

“I don’t know who could do such a thing. Many graves have been vandalised. This has been going on for about four years and it is getting worse.

It used to be beautiful. It was well maintained and had neat grass between the graves.”

He said the vandalism had become a hindrance to people who wanted to trace their genealogy.

“People travel from England and other places to look for the names of their family members. Some come at Christmas and Easter to the graves of their loved ones and that’s usually the time when there are a lot of complaints about the condition of the cemetery.”

Russell said he dealt with e-mails on a regular basis from people living overseas wanting information on graves in the cemetery, but due to the deteriorating condition it was increasingly difficult to find the information.

“People have lost respect for cemeteries. The other cemeteries in Komani are also in a bad state.”

A herd of cattle was seen grazing at the cemetery and the herdsman, who did not want to give his name, said the cows belonged to a senior official at the Enoch Mgijima Municipality and they had nowhere else to go. “There is no grass where we used to feed them. I look after the cows here, they do not cause trouble.”

Vuyisile Gqiba from the Nomzamo neighbourhood watch said the vandalism had spread to the Mlungisi cemetery which recently underwent a facelift.

“Some parts of the fence are missing, the poles are being taken and sold. This has been going on for months and people from the surrounding area have been complaining about it.”

Enoch Mgijima Municipal spokesman Fundile Feketshane said an urgent investigation by the community services directorate had been done with findings including a stolen fence, vandalism and clothing lying scattered among the graves.

“It is with great sadness and shock to learn that there are individuals damaging the graves at the cemetery.

“In a sense it is barbaric for anyone to tamper with such a respected place where the loved ones have been buried.

“In terms of the powers and functions of the municipality we are expected to ensure that we maintain the site and keep it in good shape. We are completing the Lesseyton cemetery and have already awarded the (contract in terms of the) Ilinge cemetery in line with ensuring that the cemeteries are well developed and maintained.”

He said the ultimate objective was to ensure that all cemeteries under the municipality’s jurisdiction were properly maintained and guarded.

“The directorate concerned has in its plans temporary controls that are to be effected at the site and we shall ensure we work with all relevant stakeholders to give the place the respect and dignity it deserves, including fencing and cleaning.”

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