Concern over cemetery dwellers

2018-04-17 06:02
St John’s in Wynberg

St John’s in Wynberg

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There is no peace for the dead at the St John’s Cemetery in Wynberg as sex workers, vagrants and drug users have reportedly invaded the space.

Residents say the problem has been ongoing for over a year but has recently worsened as the activities now happen on broad daylight.

It is said that the people who use the graveyard come from outside the community with different agendas, turning the graveyard into a dump.

Occupants illegally bring and dump great quantities of litter, which they use for bedding, and store their food and other items at the graveyard.

Residents say their concern does not end with the fact that it is an eyesore, but the disturbance of the souls of loved ones.

“The land belongs to the church and is a used graveyard – people are still buried here on a regular basis. It must be horrible for their families to know that their loved ones are so disrespected in death,” says one of the residents.

“Every night we are woken by drug-crazed shouting, calling the dealers to the fence, or screaming, swearing prostitutes shouting at their clients.”

Residents say these occupants prey on residents and they are afraid they will soon target their properties.

The resident says the people who are often seen at the graveyard do not look like they are in need of a proper place to live but are rather driven there by the urge to freely engage in their alleged illegal activities­.

“They are here because there are people and property they can steal from. It is not safe to walk in the street or park your car outside locked gates and we cannot even hang our laundry outside.

“These people are not poor homeless people just looking for somewhere to live, because they seem to come here for a few weeks, live and work from the cemetery and then leave, only to return a few weeks later.”

He says the situation could have been avoided if the church had involved the authorities and erected proper fencing.

John McPetre of St John’s Church acknowledges that the problem has been going on for a long time. He says St John’s is busy trying to organise a meeting among all affected parties to find solutions. He says the graveyard belongs to three different churches in the neighbourhood.

“Yes, the cemeteries have been occupied for many years, but the situation has deteriorated since the upgrade of Maynardville which effectively pushed those homeless folk living there into our cemeteries as well. While it is our great wish that the dead should rest in peace, our concern is also about the impact on the living that could be at some risk when visiting the cemetery, especially if visiting alone.”

McPetre says the occupants have caused a lot of damage to the graveyard – warning signs stating that the graveyard is private property have been vandalised and cut down, high fencing has been climbed over or cut through, and a gate lock has been removed.

“Concerned neighbours, the police and Wynberg Improvement District have also taken an interest in the cemetery, which we pray will result in additional funding for other as yet undetermined security measures.”

In the meantime, he says the cemetery is attended to regularly by a gardening company which cleans up and cuts the lawns.

The City of Cape Town says it is not involved in the matter as the graveyard is on private land fully owned by the church.

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