Families want City of Joburg to stop stealing their loved ones’ graves

At least five families have complained to the City of Johannesburg after they discovered people had been buried on top of their loved ones’ graves without their consent at the Klipspruit cemetery in Soweto.

This as other families have alleged that the city has been exhuming bodies from the cemetery without a court order.

According to Nicole Myburgh, spokesperson for Community Accountability Gateway, the Kliprivier Cemetery is closed because it’s too full. It is  only for open for the reopening of graves.

“We have a new cemetery called Olifantsfontein Cemetery,” she says.

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At the Kliprivier Cemetery, there seems to be some chaos over the allotment of new burial space. The organisation caught wind of this at the recent funeral of someone who was being buried over someone else’s grave, seemingly without the knowledge of the original grave owners.

“When they got there and everybody was at the cemetery they realised that they had opened the wrong grave. What happened was that members of the community went to the officers and the officers said that there is nothing that they can do about it and these took spades and they went to the right grave and they dug this hole.

“In the three hours that was happening members of the community were saying this has happened to me too. We then caucused about what we had seen at the funeral. We then sent a message to the community development MMC [members of the mayoral committee] Margaret Arnolds,” says Myburgh.

There are five affidavits seen by The Citizen of families describing their distress at learning that their loved ones’ graves had recently had people buried on top of them.

“What is happening is they are opening the graves and either just opening the wrong graves or putting people on existing graves on and putting in people…Who are they are getting permission from if the families are only finding out about when they get to the graves? Most of them don’t even know who is buried on top of their people.”

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Myburgh is not sure what is necessitating the municipality to resort to these measures but speculates that it may have to do with deaths as a result of the third wave of Covid-19 infections.

The Adams family from Eldorado Park has been looking for their family member Victor John Adams’s grave. Though he died and was buried in January 2014, his grave number does not reflect this and this has caused years of heartbreak as the family cannot find his body.

As of 5 June 2021, a total of 1,696,564 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 56,974 deaths, had been detected in South Africa. Six provinces have reported an increase in weekly incidence risk, namely the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Western Cape.

In the past week, Gauteng has seen an infection rate of 105.0 cases per 100,000 persons, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). This is the second highest infection rate, which follows the Northern Cape – which reported the highest weekly incidence with 130.3 cases per 100,000 persons.

Coming in third is the Free State, with 83.4 cases per 100,000 persons. The City of Johannesburg has not responded to requests for comment on this issue.


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