Durban - It seems even after death ANC members are getting preferential treatment and it is causing outrage among grieving families.
Following the story in The Independent on Saturday last week regarding the ban on full tombstones in city cemeteries since August last year, it has come to light that two ANC veterans have had tombstones laid in the past month.
The city’s cemetery regulations came into effect on August 10 last year. Only headstones no higher than 70cm may be erected and no full stones or slabs would be permitted.
Bifana Matthews Ngcobo, an Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) veteran, died in November 2009 and a reliable source said a full tombstone with ANC and MK logos was laid on September 5 at the Chesterville Cemetery.
According to the source, Ngcobo’s family went ahead with the tombstone laying despite being told it was against city regulations.
When the cemetery manager tried to intervene, a Ngcobo family member said: “Whoever is your boss, their boss is the ANC.” While municipal officials stood watching, the tombstone was laid.
The second tombstone, which was laid on August 29 was for ANC Women’s League veteran Tryphina “Mboxela” Jokweni. She died in 2002 and The Independent on Saturday has documentation confirming the city gave permission for Jokweni to have a full tombstone
Meanwhile, Durban residents are still banned from laying full tombstones in city cemeteries.
Gregory Munsamy, whose wife passed away in July, confirmed he had been told he would not be allowed to put a tombstone on her grave.
On hearing about the ANC veterans being permitted full tombstones, Munsamy said: “I think it’s ridiculous. Is one person’s life and memories worth more than anyone else’s?”
Another resident, who requested her name be withheld for fear of reprisal from the city, said: “My dad passed away two years ago and I have been putting money down for his tombstone since then. It has all been done and designed and the cemetery manager said it is a “new law” and my family cannot put down the tombstone.
“But I can see some tombstones are being laid,” she said.
Chairman of the KZN Tombstone Association Thomas Keller said reputable monumental masons across the city were unhappy with measures in city cemeteries.
“We are trying to keep the new rules, but it seems behind our back everyone is doing whatever he or she wants.
“The mason’s name and grave number should be on the base of the headstone, but that is not happening, so we don’t know who is doing these full tombstones.
“The municipality has threatened that if we don’t abide by the rules, we will be forbidden to do any work in any city cemeteries,” said Keller.
While eThekwini’s district manager for the Parks, Leisure and Cemeteries, Pepe Dass, confirmed last week that new gravesites were restricted to headstones only, he did not respond to questions regarding the laying of the ANC veteran tombstones.
Neither did head of the department Thembinkosi Ngcobo.
But opposition parties were quick to condemn the preferential treatment being given to the ANC elite.
The Minority Front (MF) spokesman, Patrick Pillay said yesterday: “These regulations were passed by the municipality and there cannot be double standards. Every person must be treated equally, irrespective of political affiliation.
DA caucus leader Tex Collins said that while there must be respect that the ANC wished to honour their war heroes, the law should apply to everybody. “The fact of the matter is, the council passed the resolution,” he said.
The ANC Women’s League did not respond to requests for comment, while ANC provincial spokesman Bongani Mthembu said the matter should be referred to the city.