Dead are forgotten in city’s cemeteries

The GCN takes a look at the state of two of Germiston’s cemeteries.

A cemetery should be a place of peace where you can visit your loved ones and honour their memories.

However, this is not the case when visiting both the Primrose Cemetery and the Thomas Titus Nkobi Memorial Park in Elspark.

Grass being grossly overgrown, tombstones that have been vandalised and people who cannot find their loved ones’ graves are just some of the problems experienced by visitors to the cemeteries.

Safety at the cemeteries due to their state is also a huge concern.

The GCN visited both cemeteries and found them to be in a shocking condition.

We unpack some of the problems at the cemeteries:

Primrose Cemetery

The problems at the cemetery were first reported to Ward 36 councillor Wendy Morgan in December last year, and to date there has been very little improvement.

“Residents called me to tell me that the cemetery was in a disgusting state and when I visited I agreed,” said Morgan.

“There is a total lack of maintenance and I don’t think the grass has been cut since the start of summer.

“The entrance gate is shut and locked, but the exit gate was stolen in December and the cemetery stands open all the time.

“This allows the prostitutes to come in and use the cemetery as a place to service their clients and for other activities.

“There is also a safety concern for visitors as you do not know who or what is lurking in the long grass.”

Morgan reported the matter to the metro, but has still received no feedback.

The GCN spoke to Sadie McAvoy, who every Easter and Christmas visits the cemetery with her husband, Gavin, to lay flowers on their parents’ graves.

“When we visited in December, the weeds were up to our shoulders and we battled to find my mother’s grave,” she said.

“Although we now live in Benoni, we were Delville residents for 58 years, and it is upsetting to see the cemetery in such a state.

“It is a total disgrace and I do not understand why no maintenance has been done.

“It is appalling.

“We had to return home without even laying the flowers on our parents’ graves.”

Another resident, who did not wish to be named, said he finds the state of the cemetery a disgusting and disrespectful disgrace.



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He also noted the total lack of maintenance, trash all over the cemetery, benches not accessible to anyone, long grass, trees fallen across the roads and onto tombstones and buildings in disrepair and full of rubbish where it looks as if people are sleeping at night.

“As residents of Primrose for many years, we have a number of family members laid to rest at this cemetery and we were horrified to see the state of the place, it is absolutely disgusting and a total sign of disrespect to our loved ones,” he said.

Morgan said that demolition orders had been issued for the two buildings some time ago, but no further action had been taken.

While at the cemetery, the GCN also noted a makeshift tent where someone is living among the long grass.

Charmaine Terblanche also gave the GCN her feelings regarding the state of the cemetery.

“I go to the Primrose Cemetery every Sunday to put flowers on my granddaughter’s grave,” said Terblanche.

“It is so sad to see how the cemetery has deteriorated over the years, and what is worse is that you do not get the ground for free, we have to pay for our burial plots.

“The cemetery has become dangerous and dodgy and what are we meant to do?

“I would keep my granddaughter’s grave clean and tidy if I could, but this situation is a nightmare.”

What the metro said

Although comprehensive comment was requested from the metro regarding all the problems, only brief comment was received from Nhlanhla Cebekhulu, divisional head for communication and media relations.

“The metro is aware of the state of our cemetery and we are undertaking a supply chain process to procure the services of contractors to maintain all our cemeteries and restore them to normal conditions.

“The tree that fell on the tombstone has been removed and the sewer unblocked.

“An EMPD vehicle has been assigned to do daily patrols at the cemetery,” Cebekhulu said.

“There are metro employees stationed at the cemetery to cut trees, and they will also cut the grass and remove litter, as well as do grave-digging.

“The complaints that could not be attended to immediately are getting attention by the relevant metro departments, such as the refuse removal and the demolishing of the derelict buildings.”

Thomas Titus Nkobi Memorial Park

Problems at the cemetery are very similar to those being experienced at the Primrose Cemetery.

Residents feel unsafe visiting the cemetery and feel that the metro does not care about the state of the cemetery.

The grass is incredibly long and people are battling to find their loved ones’ graves, and it is alleged that the workers are drinking alcohol on duty.

“I recently visited Thomas Titus Nkobi Memorial Park to place flowers on several family members’ graves,” said a resident, who did not wish to be named.

“The grass was so overgrown throughout the graveyard.

“There were also holes dug, too small to be for graves, throughout the cemetery.

“One of these holes was just behind my son’s grave, but I could see no reason for the hole and they are not marked.”

Another elderly resident, who also wished to remain anonymous, said, “I visited my husband’s grave recently and it was like visiting a veld with a few graves in it, not a cemetery.

“The cemetery is in a terrible condition with very long grass and I am almost too scared to go there.

“There is no point in reporting the condition to the metro because they do nothing.”

The wall of remembrance at the Thomas Titus Nkobi Memorial Park in Elspark and benches for people to sit on are almost completely inaccessible due to the long grass.

The GCN ran an article regarding the cemetery previously and spoke to Samantha Vieira, who had experienced vandalism of a loved one’s grave.

“I paid for the installation of a new vase at the grave and once again it was carefully removed, I assume to resell,” she said.

Vieira contacted the person who oversees the cemetery and said she was told vandalism happens and she must just not replace the vase.

Another resident, who did not wish to be named, told the GCN that when he visited his father’s and brother’s graves recently, he couldn’t even see the graves as the grass was so long.

“The whole cemetery is completely overgrown,” he said.

He also noticed, and sent photographic evidence to the GCN, that employees were drinking alcohol while on duty.

What the metro said

Once again the GCN requested comprehensive comment regarding the issues at the cemetery, but received a lacklustre reply from Cebekhulu with hardly any of the questions being answered.

“Yes, the metro is aware of the current state of the cemetery,” Cebekhulu said.

“We cut the grass before Christmas and we are in the process of appointing new contractors.”

The small holes behind people’s graves are, according to the metro, for burials and they will be marked weekly after opening for burials.


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