‘No respect for the dead’

photo: andile sitholeRashid Sayed with a remaining piece of a tombstone at his father’s grave.
photo: andile sitholeRashid Sayed with a remaining piece of a tombstone at his father’s grave.

THE Muslim community in Greytown is urging Umvoti Municipality to deploy security guards at a local graveyard to stop criminals from vandalising the cemetery.

Resident Rashid Sayed said: “The total neglect of our Muslim cemetery and its precincts needs to be exposed. Sadly, this is not unique to Greytown, but has become a national tragedy over the last two decades. The powers that be seem oblivious to the rapid decline in service delivery.”

The access road to the cemetery is strewn with builder’s rubble, garden and domestic refuse. Sayed said during funerals, one has to negotiate their way through unsightly, odorous and hazardous heaps.

“Thieves, vagrants and addicts have damaged the precast wall to enter and defile the sacred and holy place of our loved ones. They defecate, consume alcohol, get high on drugs and desecrate the graves. They steal plants, trees, shrubs and even metal plates that identify the graves.

“This area was once cleared at the expense of the Muslim community, but within days it was reduced to a mess. Those responsible have no intellect, no fear of the law or any basic human qualities. I trust that the officials in charge put by-laws in place and charge perpetrators,” he said.

Senior member of the Greytown Muslim Burial Society Yacoob Sayed (77) said Umvoti Municipality have extended the site of the old cemetery to accommodate more burials for the Muslim community.

“We are concerned about illegal dumping and the concrete fencing that is falling apart. The rubble outside the cemetery is shocking. When people from other areas attend funerals, we are not able to park our cars,” Yacoob said.

He said that the Muslim community is also concerned about vandalism at the graveyard.

According to Yacoob, metal death name plates are removed from tombstones from the graves for commercial resale purposes: “We suspect that the plates are sold to the scrap yards. These people who are doing this have no respect for the dead,” he said.

Yacoob added that the municipality has allocated a new cemetery for the Muslim community out of Greytown. “The new site has been fenced with palisade fencing. We are happy about it, but we cannot use it now until the old graveyard is fully occupied,” he said.

Early last year, the sister newspaper of the Gazette­, Coastal Weekly, published a story about vandalism at the Tongaat cemetery. According to the Weekly, suspects were removing granite tombstone from the graveyards for commercial resale as kitchen tops.

Spokesperson for Umvoti Municipality Phindile­ Phungula said they were aware of the situation at the graveyard and had previously deployed security guards, as is the case with most cemeteries.

“Unfortunately, the theft of the security hut that is used as shelter for the security guards caused a hinderance and a safety hazard. Due processes in securing eight new security huts have since been followed, and the cemetery has been allocated one. Once delivery of the security hut has been received, work will commence as usual,” Phungula said.

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