Cemetery in ‘grave danger’

2018-11-13 06:01
The entrance to Klip Road Cemetery in Grassy Park.PHOTO: Earl Haupt

The entrance to Klip Road Cemetery in Grassy Park.PHOTO: Earl Haupt

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Klip Road Cemetery has come under the spotlight again after residents’ concerns were raised when they found the graves of their buried loved ones had been vandalised.

Added to this, the fencing around the grounds of the cemetery has gradually been taken away by thieves.

Lameez Bayat buried her father at the cemetery in August and says she’s seen people drinking in the cemetery and that there’s no water to be found.

“You can see things are stolen from the graves such as vases, flowers, etc. I had buried my dad there in August and the fence was already broken and was broken before that. The day I buried my dad, his grave was full of fresh flowers; the next day there was not a single flower on his grave,” she says.

The City’s Recreation and Parks Department is responsible for the upkeep of the cemetery and City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo says standards at Klip Road Cemetery are maintained through scheduled mowing and cleaning of the grounds.

Bayat says that security was scant on her visit to the site and that guards are only stationed in their office, not on patrol.

“Cemeteries in general are difficult to secure, as they are extensive areas which are easily accessible. It is challenging to mitigate against crime and vandalism which often takes place after hours. This is a growing problem in cemeteries across the country, and Cape Town is facing similar challenges. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, the City cannot afford to provide security guards to provide 100% security coverage for each grave. Also, based on the City’s bylaws, the family of the deceased is responsible for maintenance of the grave itself,” he says.

With regard to the fence, Tyhalibongo says that the fencing has been replaced on numerous occasions, but it has worsened to the point that sections of the fence are being stolen at a quicker rate than it can be repaired or replaced.

“New fencing is becoming a commodity for criminals to steal and, by replacing the fencing, the Recreation and Parks Department is enabling more theft, which defeats the purpose of replacing it. Alternatives such as security guards have been considered; however, this section of fencing is in a dark, secluded part of the cemetery and borders a large, vacant portion of land. This makes patrolling ineffective and dangerous for one security guard to manage,” he adds.

As a result, a R300 000 concrete palisade fence is being considered to avoid the growing costs of constantly replacing the fence, however, the money for this project has not been budgeted for in the current financial year. Further vandalising of the cemetery has compromised the control of access into the premises.

“Access control in the form of booms was installed several months ago, but the booms were vandalised almost immediately. The booms were repaired or replaced on at least two occasions thereafter, but vandalism and theft have persisted. A decision was taken to discontinue the use of booms, as this only results in wasteful expenditure,” adds
Tyhalibongo.

He says that the reality is that the constant trouble which emerges at Klip Road Cemetery is a social problem which manifests itself as crime and vandalism on easy targets such as cemeteries.

“Cemeteries are no longer viewed as places of respect towards the deceased but rather a means to an end. As long as anti-social habits such as drug and alcohol abuse perpetuate in society, cemeteries will remain soft targets for resources which can easily be stolen to generate cash.

“The City is trying to raise awareness about the issues that can be addressed through a change in behaviour, which would mitigate against some of the risks of cemeteries being vandalised.”

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