Hundreds of stone artworks, wrought iron stolen from graveyard

2012-09-12 00:00

THE historic Commercial Road Cemetery, which was established around 1840, is being plundered and damaged by thieves who are robbing from the dead.

The thieves are selling stone crucifixes, headstones and grave decorations as well as the ornate wrought- iron work.

Hundreds of the historic tombstones fashioned by stonemasons — some of them more than 150 years old — have been stolen in the past two weeks to the extent that little remains of some of the original graves, according to concerned neighbours.

“We are having sleepless nights with people banging, and contacting police or Msunduzi Municipal security has proven to be fruitless,” said a neighbour who did not want to be named for fear that he might be attacked.

He said the heavy items must have been removed and carried on a bakkie or truck at night.

The Witness visited the site and found that some of the crucifixes had been detached from various graves and were presumably awaiting collection.

The neighbour showed The Witness a large marble statue that had been taken from the plinth where it had stood for 123 years.

“This is probably awaiting to be sold off and collected by the thieves,” he said.

Ornate wrought-iron railings had been broken off and sold to unscrupulous scrap iron dealers in the past two years and less than 10% of it remained, he added.

The man appealed to people who have family members buried there to take urgent action in order to save the site.

Holes have been cut in the fence on Miller Street and between Chief Albert Luthuli Road and the Msunduzi River, and the security room in the cemetery is occupied by vagrants.

Neighbours appealed to the municipality to replace the wire fencing with palisade fencing, deploy security guards and provide lighting to curb the theft.

Msunduzi Municipality was not available for comment, but the chairperson of the community services portfolio committee, Manillal Inderjit, said they are aware of the vandalism.

“We are still looking for a permanent solution to the problem because this clearly indicates how low people’s morality has degenerated where robbing the dead has become the fashion,” he said.

He said the cemetery was of historical importance as it preserved the work of the stonemasons dating back generations ago, and the municipality needed to protect this legacy as a tourist attraction.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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