Man seeks relatives’ graves

2017-02-28 08:30
Imbali man Sbusiso Molefe said he and his family are in distress as they have been struggling to get the management of the Ethembeni Cemetery to give them grave numbers for their relatives buried at Ethembeni.

Imbali man Sbusiso Molefe said he and his family are in distress as they have been struggling to get the management of the Ethembeni Cemetery to give them grave numbers for their relatives buried at Ethembeni. (Ian Carbutt)

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Help us find our dead.

This is the plea from a local man who has been searching in vain for the graves of his grandmother and brother at the Ethembeni Memorial Park cemetery in Lincoln Meade for the past year.

He claims he is among many other locals who are looking for their loved ones’ graves at the cemetery.

But the people he hoped could provide him with the sites of the two graves have told The Witness they do not have information to help him.

His grandmother was buried there in 2008 and his brother in 2012.

Sbusiso Molefe from Imbali said his family now want to erect tombstones for them but are struggling to get the current management of the cemetery to give them the grave numbers where their loved ones are buried.

“It is absolutely frustrating. Putting up the tombstones is part of our culture and we have to do ceremonies but we can’t because we do not have the grave numbers,” said Molefe.

The Witness visited the Ethembeni Cemetery with Molefe and found no guards at the gate. While many graves have tombstones erected on them, some just look like abandoned grass-covered mounds, making it difficult to separate one grave from another. Some of the graves have no tags or numbers.

Molefe, who is the breadwinner in the family, and heads the erection of tombstones for his family, said he started inquiring about the grave numbers around a year ago.

He said he was told that the Ethembeni Memorial Park was now owned by the Msunduzi Municipality and he has been trying to ask officials to help him but has instead been sent from pillar to post trying to get the grave numbers.

“The current graveyard supervisor told me they cannot access the record books because they are with the previous owner and he’s refusing to part with them.

“The battle seems to be between the municipality and the previous owners and we are just caught in the middle.

“We want to know what we must do,” said Molefe.

Molefe said he has made countless visits to the cemetery but all have been fruitless. He said he always meets other frustrated people who have the same problem.

“My family is one of many looking for graves.

“We are all very desperate to find the graves of our loved ones so we can erect tombstones, find closure and move on with our lives.

“We are pleading with the municipality to assist us,” said Molefe.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the municipality recently took over the Ethembeni cemetery from a private company that was operating its own system. She said she does not know if the company had a record book or not.

“There is a visible notice at Ethembeni that clearly states that after a year people must not come and ask for their relatives’ grave numbers. That notice has always been there.

“Everyone else who has gone to Ethembeni with the grave number was assisted to locate their relative’s grave,” said Mafumbatha.

She said she does not blame the old owners for anything as it is the responsibility of the families to keep the grave numbers and not the responsibility of any official. “It is very unfortunate but there is not much we can do. People who wish to get the grave numbers of their relatives must go to Ethembeni and get the contact details of the previous owner; maybe they can assist,” said Mafumbatha.

She added that people should keep the grave numbers of their relatives safe to help them in locating graves.

However, Allen van Derveen from Mpinvestfour Investments (Pty) Limited, the company that previously owned Ethembeni, said they officially handed over all the documentation to the municipality.

“We had a record book that had all the grave numbers and it was transferred over to the city along with all environmental reports when they took over.

“It is untrue that we still have the record book,” said Van Derveen.

Are you also battling with the same problem? E-mail nompilo.kunene@witness.co.za with your story.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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