File picture: Wilfredo Lee/AP
Nelspruit - Skeletal remains, including those of a man who died more than 40 years ago, have been dug up from a Muslim cemetery, apparently for black magic, sparking both alarm and outrage.

Thieves struck at two graves at the Nelspruit Qabrastan (cemetery) on Friday, leaving behind only a small limb belonging to a woman who died in 2013 and the skull of a man who died in the 1960s. The incident has infuriated the community, who have since rallied together to employ security guards at weekends and at night during the week.

According to the chairman of the Nelspruit Muslim Jamaat, Dr Abdullah Noorbhai, the theft, the first at the cemetery, which opened in the early 1900s, could be linked to black magic.

Burials at the cemetery, he said, stopped this year due to the lack of space.

“Worshippers went early to the mosque on Friday for prayer. They assumed the grave-sites were opened as two pioneers in the community were critically ill.

“Only at around 7am, when the caretaker arrived on duty, did they realise what had happened,” Noorbhai told POST.

He said the two graves were about 5m apart and in different rows.

Side tunnels leading from the male’s grave-site were found, possibly indicating the thieves wanted to unearth other burial spaces...

“They (the thieves) took everything, only leaving behind a small limb (in the woman’s grave) and in the second grave, they left the skull.”

Noorbhai said it would take two people between four to six hours to dig a grave to a depth of 6 feet (1.8m).

This possibly means more than two people could have been involved in the bone snatching.

He said breaking the news to the woman’s family was not easy.

The woman’s daughter, who declined to be named, said: “It is very hurtful. They (the departed) are supposed to rest in peace... and I cannot believe they (the thieves) can’t leave our people in peace.”

She declined to comment on the possible reason behind the theft but said: “The perpetrators of this barbaric action should get their turnaround.” The second family declined to comment.

The Jamiatul Ulama South Africa condemned the act.

Nelspruit police are investigating a case of violation of graves.