Durban - Thieves have struck at Red Hill Cemetery in Durban, making off with two granite tombstones and causing added heartache for grieving families of those buried there.
Durban woman Nomvula Zikalala said she was shocked to learn recently that the tombstone erected at the grave of her daughter, Lungi, who died three years ago, had been stolen.
“We had been going to visit her at her grave often, and her friends likewise. However, sometime last month I was shocked when I got a call from one of her friends telling me that she could not find her grave,” Zikalala said.
“She said she had been looking for the grave for 20 minutes, but could still not find it.”
Zikalala said she had then asked her brother to go and check what had happened.
“It was only when they looked properly that they realised that her grave was now a hole and the stone that had her name had been left upside down, making it hard for them to find it,” she said. “Even the grave next to hers had been robbed of its tombstone.”
Zikalala said they had informed the workers at the cemetery of this and been disturbed to hear that it was a common problem.
“My worry is that a lot of people may not know that their relatives’ tombstones have been stolen.
“It really is a major worry for us because we have now put tiles on her grave,” she said. “Who knows if these thieves will come back for the tiles this time.”
Thembinkosi Ngcobo, head of the eThekwini municipality parks and recreation unit, which is responsible for municipal cemeteries, said the municipality was not liable for loss of tombstones.
“We have security guards, but they will either work at night or day depending on the levels of problems at each cemetery,” he said.
“The stealing of tombstones is a common problem, but it is up to the families to ensure that they are secure.”
Ngcobo said the problem of stealing tombstones was widespread in most cemeteries.
“Another problem that we have is that there is a lot of vandalism that is going on.
“It really is up to the families to safeguard the tombstones because it is beyond our control,” he said.
Provincial police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane said it was not common for cases of tombstone theft to be reported.
“However, if anyone wants to report such a case they are more than welcome to do so,” he said.