Highway, cemetery hit by sinkholes

Pretoria News

Two sinkholes have appeared in Centurion in the past week: one close to a major highway and the other threatening a national monument.

Yesterday, engineers inspected a sinkhole in the median on the N14 (Ben Schoeman) south of Jean Avenue. The hole is about six metres wide.

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The sink hole on the centre Island of the Ben Schoeman Highway just south of Jean Avenue in Centurion
Picture: Etienne Creux2.7.2012
The sink hole that exposed bones at the Irene Concentration Camp Cemetery last week. 
Picture: Etienne Creux

Octavia Mamabolo, spokeswoman for Gauteng’s Department of Public Transport and Roads, said engineers from the Tshwane Metro Council had been to the site.

Some of the lanes had been closed, she said.

Last Monday, a sinkhole caused damage to the Irene Concentration Camp Cemetery. It is about 10 metres in diameter and its depth has yet to be confirmed.

Cilliers du Preez, chairman of the Centurion Heritage Society, said at least 20 to 30 graves were affected.

The cemetery is a national monument and dates back to the South African War at the beginning of the 1900s when it served as a graveyard for the local concentration camp. More than 1 200 people, many of them children, are buried in shallow graves in the cemetery.

Du Preez said that since the sinkhole appeared, children from the area had been breaking into the cemetery to get a closer look .

“They stole two femurs from the site,” he said. “I don’t think there was any malicious intent.”

Security around the cemetery would be increased to prevent injuries and further thefts, Du Preez said.

Should the hole not filled by the Tshwane Metro Council, the community had indicated that it was willing to step in and assist, he said.

“This is the first time in 110 years that the graves have been disturbed,” Du Preez said.

He hopes that the hole will be filled before October 7, in time for the annual commemoration service.

The sites are not far from the sinkhole that led to the closing of Jean Avenue last September.

The affected section of Jean Avenue, between Rabie and Von Willich streets, was opened at the end of May after extensive work that included mass excavation, filling and compaction.

Parts of Centurion are built on dolomite and sinkholes appear from time to time. Subsidence problems also occur, such as that which caused the closure of one of the entrances to the Lyttelton police station. Engineers took extra precautions on the Gautrain route through the area, making provision for the dolomitic conditions.

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