MEMBERS of the Black First Land First movement planted crosses engraved with the names of government leaders at the Honingnestkrans Cemetery in Tshwane. Picture: Supplied
MEMBERS of the Black First Land First movement planted crosses engraved with the names of government leaders at the Honingnestkrans Cemetery in Tshwane. Picture: Supplied

Tshwane slams BLF's graves stunt

By James Mahlokwane Time of article published Jul 20, 2020

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Pretoria - Tshwane Head Administrator Mpho Nawa on Sunday night lashed out at the Black First Land First movement for planting crosses engraved with the names of government leaders at the Honingnestkrans Cemetery, north of the city.

A notice circulated under its logo invited the community to a prayer and cleansing ceremony and the immediate closing of the graves dug there, apparently for Covid-19 victims.

However, the organisation did not close the graves as claimed in the invite, but instead planted crosses engraved with the names of government leaders at open graves.

It is believed that about 50 people entered the cemetery on Saturday under false pretences, planted the crosses and prayed. The caretaker couldn’t do anything it as he was alone and outnumbered, but reported the incident to his supervisor. City officials later removed the crosses and destroyed them.

Nawa said the City dug the graves in the normal course of its work to ensure they were ready for interments. “The City does not wait for bookings to dig the graves and generally digs a few extra graves to prepare for burials,” he said.

According to the organisation, to mark Mandela Day, it erected numerous crosses with the names of politicians at Honingnestkrans.

BLF leader Andile Mngxitama said the government’s announcement that Gauteng cemeteries had enough space for more than 1million graves was an insult to African customs and beliefs.

About a week ago, MEC for Health Dr Bandile Masuku visited the cemetery. It was subsequently disclosed that Gauteng had 1.5million grave sites available for Covid-19 victims.

However, Mngxitama said the government’s approach was not pro-life nor reassuring enough.

He said the movement decided to use Mandela Day to erect the crosses with names such as that of President Cyril Ramaphosa on them to encourage the government to close the graves.

He said the movement used the opportunity to remember the 4800 Covid-19 victims and the people murdered by the military and police during the lockdown.

“We are here to denounce the South African government’s policy of death and to affirm life.

“The government has decided on a path of mass death.

“They told the nation that here in Gauteng alone they are ready with over 1million graves.

“They have instructed cemeteries to dig Covid-19 graves. This is an insult to our African customs and beliefs. An open grave invites death.”

Mngxitama said China had built hospitals following the coronavirus outbreak, but the South African Government was digging graves.

“We are here today to say no to death and yes to life. Covid-19 doesn’t have to mean mass deaths.

“This is a deliberate choice by the South African Government. Other governments that of like Cuba, Vietnam, South Korea and even China have saved their people’s lives.

“Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize said that between 60% and 70% of us will get infected. This means that millions will die.

“That’s why they are digging graves for us. Mass death is the policy choice of this government.

“From Tembisa Hospital to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital to the hospitals in the Eastern Cape, it’s a horror movie; public hospitals are places of death.

“Politicians don’t use these hospitals. They go to private hospitals. We die in these neglected public hospitals.

“We say the president, MPs, ministers, MECs and director-generals must use public hospitals.

“The government’s programme of mass death is driven by Minister of Basic Education (Angie Motshekga) at the level of the schools.

“This government is condemning our teachers and children to death. We are here to send a clear message: close the schools.”

Mngxitama accused Ramaphosa of using the tragedy of the pandemic to enrich his sponsors and business friends.

Masuku’s spokesperson Kwara Kekana said: “As we have reiterated before explaining the trajectory of the virus, this stage involves death and bereavement, which involves the expansion of burial capacity as part of the Covid-19 response.

“Provinces, through municipalities, have this unfortunate responsibility.

“The province continues to increase both infrastructure and human resource capacity in order to save as many lives as possible during this period. There are no mass graves being dug in Gauteng.”

But Nawa said: “A cemetery is considered to be a sacred place where we lay to rest our departed loved ones, and for this group to write the names of government leaders on the crosses and plant them on the open graves is diabolical, to say the least.

This is the behaviour of intemperate people.”

He refuted speculation that Honingnestkrans had been earmarked as a Covid-19 burial site for 24000 people.

“The truth of the matter is that the City’s cemeteries across all the seven regions have a capacity to accommodate 24000 burials related to Covid-19,” Nawa added.

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's  #Coronavirus trend page.
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za

Pretoria News

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