Neglected cemeteries become havens for crime at Emfuleni
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Criminals are using neglected graveyards at Emfuleni, in the Vaal Triangle, as a place to hide and waylay unsuspecting residents, robbing them of their cellphones and other valuables.
Residents have complained that the graves have been vandalised and criminals hide behind cover of overgrown grass and weeds and collapsed walls to prey on passers-by and those visiting the graves.
Graves mostly affected are in Vanderbijlpark and Evaton while those in Sharpeville are protected by security guards posted at the entrance.
But it seems the problems are not going to be resolved soon because Emfuleni cemetery workers have downed tools saying they have not been paid for three months.
The workers’ protest was joined by undertakers who are also concerned about the state of the cemeteries. On Thursday the workers and undertakers barricaded municipal offices and would not allow officials inside.
Smangele Maduna said her salary stopped in November.
“We didn’t receive our salaries and overtime allowances. Today we are standing here because we don’t have money to buy food for our children. We don’t even have money for transport to come to work, but they want us to continue working.”
A colleague, Nkosana Ndakhi, said he was frustrated because he had no money to pay for transport for his children to school.
Funeral undertaker Motsumi Phale said they joined the protest because the cemeteries were not maintained.
“Also, there are no numbers and the graves are not marked. This causes confusion because some families end up placing tombstones on the wrong graves and praying to the wrong ancestors.
“The workers also have problems with their manager, which led them to down tools. We couldn’t pay for grave diggers. That’s why we joined the workers in their strike and shut down the municipality,” said Phale.
Undertaker Johannes Nhlapho said graves were exhumed and coffins were stolen due to vandalism.
Evaton resident Nomsa Macha said there were no toilets or water inside the graveyards.
Funeral undertakers engage with Emfuleni Parks and Cemeteries MMC Penny Sengoatsi about their problems at Vanderbijlpark
“There is no security and I was once robbed at gunpoint inside the graveyard. I hear people complaining about the same thing.”
She said she also struggles to spot her family’s graves because they are covered by overgrown weeds and grass.
Another resident, Lebohang Mabitle, echoed Macha’s sentiments. They often heard gun shots coming from the graveyard.
“And we are also struggling to find our family graves because the grass keeps growing and the municipality never sends people to come and cut it,” she said.
Nomsa Motingwe said her cousin was robbed of her phone in the graveyard in “bright daylight”.
“I think it was around 3.30pm when she came crying. She was shaking. She told us that two men pointed a gun at her and demanded her phone and money.
“The municipality really needs to do something about this. They must also send people to cut the grass,” she said.
Emfuleni’s mayor, Gift Moerane, said he had appointed a service provider to dig graves for the families who will be burying their dead over the weekend.
Moerane also urged residents to stop vandalising the cemeteries as this gives criminals an opportunity to steal coffins and tombstones.
Gauteng DA member of the legislature Kingsol Chabalala said it was painful that families had to bury their loved ones in such situations. He said this also proved that the officials were incompetent.
“This also shows how badly Emfuleni is treating its residents,” he said.
The Sunday Independent