Durban - In the cool Durban winter morning there’s a stillness in the uMhlanga Cemetery, the city’s forgotten cemetery.
Many of the gravestones are broken, some crumbled to dust, and the wind gently ruffles the sparse leaves of the trees. It’s been many years since any mourner could reflect on shared memories next to the tombstone of a loved one.
But that may soon all change as uMhlanga resident, Kim Parkes, decided to bring the city’s attention back to the neglected graveyard.
Situated at the end of Herrwood Drive, the road to the cemetery has been damaged by storms and is impassable, particularly for a vehicle such as a hearse.
Parkes’ father, Brian, was buried there and Parkes said about three weeks ago, he decided to raise the issue because it had been so long since he could visit his father’s grave.
“I wanted to make sure my dad’s grave was still here, he was such a special man. A friend, Tony Rowney, is also buried there. He was murdered during an armed robbery at his home in Johannesburg in 1998. His daughter, who is now in her twenties, came back from the UK to visit her dad’s grave, and when she was unable to do so, it really upset her.”
Brian was a well-known Durban journalist of yesteryear at Independent Newspapers, particularly at The Mercury and the Sunday Tribune. He died in 1995 from a heart attack and had been working at The Post that morning.
“For the last two to three years, I haven’t been able to get to the cemetery because there was no access. I think it’s time that the road was fixed and families who want to visit it, can do so.
“There’s still plenty of space, and people in the area need to know about it. There needs to be continuing upkeep of the cemetery,” said Parkes.
Most of the graves appear to date between 1995 to 2005, while the oldest grave which inscription could still be read was that of Arthur Rowney in 1970.
“That was my friend Tony’s father, and the two are buried next to each other,” added Parkes during a tour of the cemetery with the Independent on Saturday this week.
The cemetery is surrounded by sugar cane and new housing estates. The access road from Herrwood Drive is blocked by cement bollards, while a longer route, which used to be popular among MTB cyclists, has also fallen into disrepair. According to Parkes, this was largely due to the last big storm in Durban.
After approaching the municipality and receiving no response, Parkes approached the DA councillor, Yogiswarie Govender.
In the last few weeks, the immediate road outside the cemetery has been cleared, while the cemetery has also been cleaned and the grass cut.
However, the longer route remains only accessible in a 4x4 vehicle, while the gravel road from Herrwood Drive remains blocked.
Yesterday, Govender said that she had contacted Tongaat Hulett and municipal officials, and had visited the site.
“Upon arrival, it was established that the municipality had, a day or so before our visit, cleaned the gravel road, cut back the bush and erected a new sign at the cemetery.
“While this was welcome, the DA is very concerned about the general state of our cemeteries and crematoria,” said Govender.
She had also carried out an oversight visit to Mobeni Heights Cemetery this week.
“This visit revealed the gross neglect in the maintenance and upkeep of essential services by the municipality,” she said, and would follow up on the gravel road access.
eThekwini Municipality said they were establishing who was responsible for the road from Herrwood Drive to find a way forward.