When a family went to visit their loved one at Wallacedene Cemetery they found the grave had been dug up and the coffin damaged. Picture: Supplied.
When a family went to visit their loved one at Wallacedene Cemetery they found the grave had been dug up and the coffin damaged. Picture: Supplied.

Cape family traumatised by finding their loved one’s grave dug up and damaged

By Nomalanga Tshuma Time of article published Sep 21, 2021

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Cape Town - When a family went to visit their loved one at Wallacedene Cemetery they found the grave had been dug up and the coffin damaged.

Berenita Dirkse, from Wallacedene, registered a case of vandalism at the local police station. She wants the cemetery to be held accountable for the damage done to her husband’s grave just two weeks after his funeral.

Dirkse was alerted to the incident by her grandchildren and said she was shattered when she went to the site and saw the damage to the grave and the coffin. The damage was allegedly caused by the cemetery workers who were digging up another grave close by.

“My grandchildren visit the grave site frequently. They like taking flowers from my garden to put on their grandfather’s grave. So when they went there on Friday, we were taken back when they said the grave had fallen in.

“I didn’t believe them at first, and I asked my eldest grandchild to go and check. When he confirmed it, I was completely heartbroken. How could people do something like that to a grieving family?

“We had just buried my husband there, less than two weeks in fact, and there it was, sand everywhere, flowers gone, and the coffin lying out in the open with scratches at the head,” Dirkse said.

“To me, it seems as if they were trying to fit in another grave between two existing ones, which were already close together, causing it to fall and the coffin to come up. But the superintendent who came to me wanted to blame the children.

“She said what happened was because the kids play on the graves. As if children dig up coffins for amusement nowadays. My grand-babies were traumatised. No child would do that,” Dirkse said.

When a family went to visit their loved one at Wallacedene Cemetery they found the grave had been dug up and the coffin damaged. Picture: Supplied.

“I won’t lie and say we are okay, Everything we had set up was gone and strewn about. It was terrible. We don’t have a lot at home, but we did our best to give my husband a dignified burial.

“To have this happen is just awful. There is no getting past this. The children crying, the nightmares. We are hurting.”

Dirkse’s husband, Moses Arendse, was 57 when he died last month of natural causes. He was survived by Dirkse, their three children, and four grandchildren.

“To think no one has even apologised for what happened. Instead, it’s people trying to pass the blame. I want them to fix what they broke, and for whoever is responsible to be held accountable. We were left traumatised by this,” Dirkse said.

In response, Mayco Member for Community Services and Health Zahid Badroodien said that although Wallacedene Cemetery was not yet full, the digging of new graves next to existing graves was a usual occurrence that for the most part did not cause disarray of existing graves.

“New graves are being dug next to existing graves, however this is the first time such an incident occurred. On September 17, 2021, a new grave was prepared by the City’s digger loader team for burial on September 18.

“The incident that happened that day occurred during an adjacent grave preparation and is a rare occurrence. A sand wall separating the grave collapsed, exposing part of the coffin of the neighbouring grave site.

“The family of the affected grave were on site when the incident occurred, and were consulted by the cemetery superintendent regarding the incident. The team rectified the affected site by clearing the sand and rebuilding a stabilised wall.”

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