Cape Town cemeteries are haunted by vandalism, dumping and theft

Cape Town cemeteries are being vandalised at an alarming rate, according to the City. Over the last few months, there has been a steady increase in the number of theft, vandalism and illegal dumping reports lodged at City-owned burial grounds. More homeless people are turning to the public spaces as a place of refuge.

Cemeteries in Klip Road, Kuils River, Khayelitsha and Durbanville appear to be the most affected, said the City on Wednesday, 21 April.

CITY SEEKING A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION TO VANDALISM, SAYS PRIVATE SECURITY IS UNAFFORDABLE

The City said vandalism needs a collective approach amid the increased reports of damage to public infrastructure and illegal occupation.

Kliproad, Khayelitsha, Kuils River and Durbanville cemeteries may be the hardest hit but similar issues are being experienced at the Old Strand and Maitland cemeteries at a smaller scale. The City added that it is aware that privately owned cemeteries are also having trouble.

The pandemic exasperated the problem because of the deaths related to COVID-19. The number of funerals during the peak, in months gone by, made it “impossible to secure each grave.”

“Cemeteries are vast portions of land and it is impossible to secure each grave, especially in recent months when the demand was at its peak and drew heavy foot traffic daily through cemeteries,” said MayCo Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Zahid Badroodien.

Badroodien added that the city’s cemeteries are deemed Public Open Spaces and therefore need to remain open and accessible to all.

The City said it fences the entire perimeter of cemeteries “where necessary” and prioritises night time security.

“Unfortunately, the high cost of private security makes it unaffordable and unsustainable as a permanent, long-term solution,” said Badroodien.

COMMUNITIES CALLED UPON TO REPORT ANY INCIDENTS IMMEDIATELY

The City does not keep a record of the tokens, mementos and memorial work people use to adorn the graves of their loved ones. Therefore, they only catch wind that an individual grave has been vandalised once visitors report it.

Fences are routinely vandalised or stolen over time and the City reports these cases to the police, illegal dumping is another recurring challenge at cemeteries across Cape Town.

Cape Town cemeteries vandalism
Kuils River Cemetery. Photo via: City of Cape Town

The City urged community members to report incidents of vandalism immediately, “so that corrective action can be taken.”

“A small act of vandalism left unattended soon becomes a far bigger problem,” said Badroodien.

Badroodien added that due to the Disaster Management Act, the City could not do anything about “street people living or sleeping in, or adjacent to cemeteries.”Last month, in March 2021, Cape Town mayor Dan Plato said he wants President Cyril Ramaphosa to change the Disaster Management Act, which prevents evictions, in order to battle illegal occupations in the City.

“The City continues to do its social development outreach work on a daily basis, but offers of assistance are voluntary and no one can be forced to accept the help,” concluded Badroodien.

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Presh JM Reporter

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