Vegetable patch flourishing between the graves in Howick

2019-01-17 16:04
A small vegetable garden grows next to graves at the Miller Street Cemetery in Howick.

A small vegetable garden grows next to graves at the Miller Street Cemetery in Howick. (Kerushun Pillay)

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Family members who visit the Miller Street Cemetery in Howick have mixed feelings over a small well-kept vegetable patch flourishing between the graves.

Members of the Howick community said the uMngeni Municipality is neglecting the cemetery.

They say it is often badly overgrown, to the point where the undergrowth has pushed some tombstones over. Some graves are completely covered in weeds and there is no defined pathway to navigate one’s way around the cemetery.

uMngeni councillor Janis Holmes said she has sent several complaints over the last few years to uMngeni about the lack of regular care at the cemetery, adding she would report the vegetable garden to the municipality’s parks department.

“This kind of thing is upsetting to families because it shows disrespect.

“If uMngeni can’t maintain its open spaces, then it should partner with small businesses or local gardeners to ensure the cemetery is maintained.”

Holmes added that there were many alien plants and trees growing at the cemetery, which should have been chopped down.

cemetery

Derrick dos Santos (left), who has family buried at the cemetery, stands with uMngeni councillor Janis Holmes next to a fenced grave.

uMngeni Municipality spokesperson Thando Mgaga explained the vegetable garden was not disrespectful at all, but part of a municipal project to grow share gardens at all suitable municipal facilities.

Mgaga said this share garden is growing over a septic tank area and not where graves would have been.

“The vegetables can be harvested by anyone visiting the cemetery, including the staff members overseeing the cemetery,” he said.

Mgaga said the cemetery had been recently cleared, but pointed out individual graves with protective fencing cannot be reached by municipal groundskeepers to clear weeds or cut tall grass.

“Normally the actual individual grave sites are maintained by relatives of the deceased who are buried there.”

He said endeavours are made to clear branches that fell during the recent high winds where possible.

But residents say the clearing does not happen often enough and the normal state of the graveyard has people feeling unsafe when they pay their respects. Lin Schapowalsky, whose brother was buried there in 2016, said she had gone to pay respects there last year and the cemetery was so unkempt that she couldn’t find his grave. “I also went there on Christmas Eve and found that some of the things we left on his grave had been stolen and the rest of it looked as though someone had kicked them off.

“It was my brother’s wish to be buried because he wanted people to have a place to go to pay respects, so it isn’t nice that our family feels unsafe to go there.”

Derrick dos Santos, who also has family buried there, said his family are afraid to go there to pay respects.

“It is difficult to get to graves because there are no pathways to walk on and the graves are so close to one another.

“My aunt used to come here once a week; now she only comes maybe three times a year.”

• Air your views on The Witness Facebook page — is it a good idea to use cemetries for share gardens, or disrespectful?

Complaints regarding cemeteries in Howick can be logged by calling 033 239 9245, 033 239 9263 or 033 239 9259.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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