The Cato Manor Cemetery once stood there now containers occupies the historical grave site.

DURBAN - A community activist is on a mission to breathe new life into an abandoned cemetery that had great historical significance and sentimental value but is now being used as a container depot.

Kuben Samie hopes the petition he launched two weeks ago to save the Cato Manor Indian Cemetery will get the eThekwini Municipality and the the site owners, the Cato Manor Indian Cemetery and Crematorium Association (CMICCA), to remove tenants and restore the graveyard.

Samie plans to hand the copies of the petition to the city, the association and other role-players, and if their demands were not met, he would pursue legal action against those who had desecrated the grave site would be based on cemetery legislation and conservation of heritage resources.

The Bellair Road cemetery, established in the early 1900s by Indian settlers, has been the final resting place of hundreds of residents.

he association has leased the property to various companies, most recently Secona Freight Logistics used it who use it for shipping containers.

So far, 200 people have signed the petition.

Rookran Logandra Naidoo gave reasons online for his support: “My great-grandfather was buried there in 1928. His tombstone was demolished without notice in 2013.

Graham Leslie McCallum posted: “What a disgrace to bulldoze over a cemetery and destroy gravestones. Our city should be preserving its full and fascinating history.”

A CMICCA representative of the Cato Manor Indian Cemetery and Crematorium Association would not comment.

Secona managing director Selvan Marimuthu said he leased the property from a company that had been using the land as a container depot and did not know the history.

He said: “I am a legal tenant, I leased the depot – not a cemetery or vacant land. I had no idea what was underground. It was never brought to our attention that there was a cemetery here.”

An eThekwini spokeswoman said the cemetery was privately owned.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE