No rest for the dead

2014-07-16 00:00

THERE is no peace for the dead in the cemetery on Chief Albert Luthuli Road.

Thieves raid it for metal to sell for scrap on a daily basis, causing massive financial damage to old graves there.

The cemetery, which is considered a historic site as it contains graves dating back to the 1800s, is being desecrated in broad daylight, in full view of the public and government officials working at the KZN Provincial Library Services building next door.

Robert Scott, the chief restorer at the KZN Museum Services, said the damage caused by the criminals’ activity runs into hundreds of thousands of rand.

The thieves break in through a palisade fence on Commercial Road and have also pushed down the wire fence on Miller Road.

In the cemetery opposite the library services, palisade fences and gates protecting some of the graves have been removed.

Scott said although the theft has been going on for a long time, it has become worse recently.

He said this week he had to rush to the cemetery next to library services, after he noticed someone busy hammering away to remove steel, but the thief had fled by the time he arrived.

Scott came up with a radical suggestion for trying to curb some of the damage caused by the thieves who have resorted to breaking tombstones down and using them as hammers to break off steel around the graves; he suggested that all the steel in the graves be removed.

“The thieves receive R2,50 per kilogram of steel and we removed about 300 kg this week which would have earned the thieves around R750 … They have done damage running into hundreds of thousands of rand,” he said.

Another resident told The Witness in an e-mail that he recently photographed two people pulling a “trolley” load of steel they had just stolen from the cemetery.

“Our Commercial Road [Chief Albert Luthuli] Cemetery is being carried away bit-by-bit, and during broad daylight in front of everybody …” he said.

“This is an endemic problem which appears to be impossible for the police to monitor … All scrap metal dealers should be required to be licensed and any dealer, where evidence is found of buying and/or selling stolen metal, should be heavily fined and their licence to trade cancelled.”

John Deare of the Family History Society and Genealogical Society said in an e-mail that on Monday, one of the officials at Provincial Library Services heard loud noises and looked out onto cemetery where a “bandit” was breaking up graves to extract steel railings.


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