Pretoria residents are complaining about the bad condition the Rebecca Street cemetery is in, with grass and tree stumps lying on top of tombstones and the newly build fence have been vandalised by criminals.
A car crashed into the fence two weeks ago and a case has been opened at the nearby police station. Local crime activist Eric Cordier said he was also concerned about crime at the cemetery.
“Recently there is a big hole in the fence which criminals and people walking past use to gain access through the cemetery,” said Cordier.
According to Cordier, criminals also use the broken fence to sleep in the cemetery or to hide when committing crimes.
“Tombstones are believed to be vandalised by criminals and tree branches are cut by contractors and thrown on top of tombstones,” he said.
He added that lettering from gravestones is also being stolen and sold as scrap metal.
“Criminals also used the stormwater pipe to gain access into the cemetery before it was recently closed.”
The cemetery’s director Lourraine Makwange, however, contradicted this saying that since lockdown, no services or families were allowed to enter the cemetery.
“The tombstones are not vandalised, they were removed by families when they were doing reburials which they still need to come back and reinstall,” said Makwange.
“The condition of the cemetery is not as reported. There are shrubs that need attention, but we will attend to them soon.”
Metro spokesperson Lindela Mashigo previously told Rekord that the cemetery had two maintenance cycles.
“The first cycle was done in December 2019 and February 2020.”
Makwange said the incidents mentioned are not a true reflection of what transpired.
“The country has been on lockdown for four months and only now we will be able to process maintenance,” she said.
“The state of the cemetery maintenance is contained, the grass is reasonably acceptable and that is why we have upheld maintenance even during the lockdown in May 2020.”
She ensured all residents in the West that the cemetery was up to standards when it came to security.
“We do have security at the cemetery and the challenges mentioned are not security-related as the security cannot prevent accidents from happening around the cemetery,” she said.
“The cemetery is a public asset for us all to safeguard and protect. We call upon communities to work with us to protect it.”
Two weeks ago, Rekord reported about a fire that occurred in the yard of the cemetery where grass was burnt around the tombstones.
Makwange said the fire started from the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).
“Unfortunately due to wind and dry grass, it extended into our cemetery. We appreciate the support and commitment provided by the surrounding community as it also helps us a lot to address unnoticed issues within the metro,” said Makwange.
Makwange promised the fence would be fixed and cemetery maintained as soon as the service provider is appointed accordingly.
This article first appeared on Rekord East and was republished with permission.