Cape Town - The widow of the late struggle stalwart Christmas “Com T” Tinto is furious after vandals smashed his tombstone - and it’s not the first time his grave has been desecrated.
Vandals broke into the Gugulethu cemetery, where he was buried more than a decade ago, and not only smashed the tombstone, but also made off with the fencing that was erected around it after the grave was first desecrated in December last year.
His widow, Bulelwa Tinto, is furious, not just because the shattered tombstone is an insult to Tinto’s legacy, or that she will have to pay R18 000 to replace it, but because she says she is not the only person who has become a victim of vandals in the area.
“It’s happening to everyone,” Bulelwa Tinto told the Cape Argus. “They are walking in, stealing and destroying what they want.”
In 2005, Tinto was buried in the NY5 Gugulethu cemetery after a colourful funeral service and celebration of his life at the nearby sports complex. Hundreds of mourners arrived to pay their last respects, dancing and singing Struggle songs as MECs praised Tinto.
It was a fitting farewell for a man who was detained on Robben Island during the 1976 student uprising. He would later go on to launch the UDM, leading protests and rallies as South Africa inched towards democracy.
It’s his legacy that brings ANC members, both former and current, to the Gugulethu cemetery every year, said Bulelwa.
“We go on his birthday,” she said, adding that he was born on Christmas Day. The whole family gets together to clean his grave and pay our respects to our ancestors.”
But now both relatives and comrades alike have found a grave in shattered ruins.
Bulelwa first discovered the grave had been desecrated during her family’s annual visit to the NY5 graveyard in December last year. Her family had paid to erect a secure fence around his mound. But when they visited the grave again in January, the fence’s gate had been stolen and the tombstone had been smashed. “I was shocked, very shocked, and sad and then very angry,” said Bulelwa. “How could they do this?”
Since then Bulelwa has been scraping together the R18 000 she will need to replace the stone. She said it will probably be destroyed again.
She called on the City of Cape Town to intervene. Mayco member for Community Services and Special Projects, Belinda Walker, said they were investigating. “Should members of the public witness any act of vandalism, they should immediately report it to the city’s law enforcement department on 0800 225 669 or to the police,” she wrote in an e-mail.