Graveyard vandalism not new

THE EFF told TotT they were going to hold a cleansing ceremony at the Esleyeni cemetery in Nemato last Friday evening (June 29) at 5pm, to apologise to the ancestors for Ndlambe Municipality’s alleged demolition of tombstones.

The EFF were a no-show, but while we were waiting, TotT reporters had a chance to look around the old graveyard, which is not used anymore. Tombstones date back to the 1960s, and most of the ones we saw were intact.

This writer realised he had been to this cemetery before. In February last year, former Nemato Community Policing Forum chairman Mahoy Nkontso, asked TotT to come to the graveyard to see how an old monument to the ancestors had been vandalised.

The graveyard, which is not fenced and is used as a thoroughfare, was in a generally unkempt state, overgrown with clumps of bush and with litter lying everywhere.

But Nkontso’s particular concern was how the monument had been broken, the headstone lying toppled. It had to be lifted to read the inscription, which was in honour of forefathers of the community. It is still like that.

The state of cemeteries in Ndlambe is not a new concern. Communities have complained before how they are not maintained, with overgrown grass and weeds between the graves. The municipality has made piecemeal efforts to attend to a cemetery after a complaint. Once, the local magistrate even ordered that as community service for shoplifting, half a dozen employees of the former Spar in Campbell Street had to clean the overgrown West Bank cemetery.

And the Esleyeni monument to the ancestors is not the only instance of community vandalism. After we went to Esleyeni last year, we also went to see Heroes Acre at the entrance to Nemato, which had also been vandalised.

Photographed in February 2017, the monument at Heroes Acre at the entrance to Nemato had also been vandalised and the palisade fence around it was missing pieces

The monument was originally protected by a palisade fence which is now missing pieces, enabling stray cattle to graze in the monument area. In addition, the marble plaque commemorating the unveiling had been broken off and lay shattered in several pieces.

There was also wholesale vandalism at the old Settler church cemetery on the East Bank a few years ago, with about 50 gravestones pushed over, some broken.

Culprits in cases like this are never found.

If the municipality can be blamed for anything, it is failure to maintain cemeteries in the first place. But instead, the EFF is accusing the municipality of “demolishing graves” by attempting to clear the Esleyeni graveyard of overgrown bush. This is deceitful politicking.

Esleyeni was already in a terrible state. The EFF’s energies would be better spent having a community clean-up in the cemetery.

– Jon Houzet

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