Johannesburg - A Johannesburg-based group called The Friends of the Cemeteries has appealed to the City of Johannesburg to upgrade security at the Braamfontein Cemetery, where ash walls containing the remains of 4 000 people have been vandalised.
Volunteers from Friends of the Cemeteries have been busy trying to clean up the mess left by vandals. The Star understands that the marble and granite plaques have been taken off the walls and smashed on the floor.
This was not the only cemetery that had been having problems; Brixton Cemetery also had problems with people staying in the cemetery and using the tombstones as shelter and, in some instances, as fireplaces or shields from the wind.
Johannesburg City Parks has managed to sort out the problems at the Brixton Cemetery through security upgrades.
Sarah Welham told The Star that a team of volunteers was now working hard to try and find out the information of the people who were placed inside the wall and notify their family members.
The team is also trying to repair the vandalised ash walls since some family members of some of the deceased have moved out of the country.
“We first saw this on March 13; what they have done is pull off the marble and the plaque. So you will look into this wall, and you will see the caskets with the ashes,” Welham said.
She appealed to the municipality for organisations from the private sector to help build a high wall around the cemetery to ensure that vandals are kept out.
“We appeal to the private sector for help since the municipality might not be able to build such a wall around the cemetery,” she said.
She said that initially she thought that the vandals had stolen some valuables from the caskets placed inside the wall, but it appeared that nothing had been stolen and that the ash wall was just vandalised.
“They need to upgrade the security; these things happen at night. I am told the security doesn’t always get issued with guns. The fence around the cemetery has holes, and parts of the fences always get stolen, and the city says they won’t replace it,” she said.
Welham said she was surprised that all respect had been lost for the dead in Johannesburg. She said she suspected that the vandalism could be a result of a drug problem in the community.
“This has something to do with the contents of the niches. We thought that the nyaope smokers wanted to smoke the ashes. The ash wall contains people from 1930 onwards,” she said.
In a statement, Johannesburg City Parks said it was aware of the situation at Braamfontein Cemetery.
“The damage of the reported vandalism at the Braamfontein cemetery, which by far is the largest form of damage in a single cemetery, with many niches destroyed, has not yet been determined. This cemetery holds the remains of loved ones as early as the 1800s,” City Parks said.