Graves unsafe from land invaders


    ALEXANDRA – Relatives urged to reclaim graves and prevent a shack invasion.

    Alex’s perennial land woes which have relegated many to living in shacks and along the Jukskei riverbank has shifted from the living to the dead.

    With many prospective homeowners still on the housing waiting list after incessant broken promises, the number of the displaced keeps mounting, their desperation compounding and exasperation leading them to do the unthinkable. The only space left for them to occupy in this bustling township is seemingly grave sites which some are said to be eyeing.

    Easy entry, use and abuse of the graveyard. Photo: Leseho Manala

    While this move may lead them on a collision course with residents of the buried relatives and ancestors at the Old Alex Graveyard across Florence Mophosho Avenue and Setswetla informal settlement, some of them have already set up home at the site and on top or alongside the graves. This was said by Mahlomola Malinga at the graveyard a day after a group of Alex residents spent May (Workers) Day cleaning the deplorable looking place of litter and decaying waste dumped by Setswetla residents.

    “It’s a painful, disrespectful and uncultured world to foul the dead. The municipality and government ought to take steps to protect the home of our ancestors who we laid to rest in peace,” Malinga said.

    He pointed to piles of stenchy waste, on occasion leading this reporter to leapfrog over faeces desecrating the area and where many tombstones have been toppled, broken and are missing.

    Mahlomola Malinga at a relative’s grave. Photo: Leseho Manala

    Most troubling for Malinga was that those who have intruded onto the site have set up home for years without much concern raised. “Others walk over the graves, seemingly oblivious of the emotional turmoil caused to relatives of those in trampled graves.”

    Graves waterlogged in affluence and under decaying waste. Photo: Leseho Manala

    Those who spent the day cleaning the area seemed to have left a glaring reminder of the mammoth clean-up required on the now porous area with gaping holes in the precast concrete palisade leading onto paths which Malinga said are crisscrossed day and night, allegedly used as shortcuts by criminals. “Condoms are strewn around signalling potential rape spots or disrespectful lovemaking at a place we all should regard as sacred.”

    People use the graveyard as a shortcut from Setswetla to Alex. Photo: Leseho Manala

    Some spots indicated possible occupation at night or transitionally.

    Some of the graves are waterlogged in affluence. “Their relatives are likely to rue the decision to bury them in Alex, a township where besides the homes, graves are also hijacked,” Malinga lamented.

    A shack in the graveyard with an illegal electricity connection. Photo: Leseho Manala

    He urged the deceased’s relatives residing elsewhere to reclaim the graves to protect them from shacks, trampling and being used as sites for criminal activities. He urged the council to clear the decaying dumpsites, replace the palisade with a concrete wall, place guards on site like at other cemeteries and clear up bushes which have taken over some of the spots and graves.

    Mashlomola Malinga next to tombstones and graves covered with decaying waste. Photo: Leseho Manala

    Malinga said some of the palisade is used by Setswetla residents as window seals and flooring for their double story homes. “What would stop the criminally minded from using some of the tombstones for home beautification purposes,” Malinga asked while advising that meetings will be called to attend to the problem.

    In a statement, Jenny Moodley of Joburg City Parks and Zoo affirmed the concerns. She said a team was conducting horticultural maintenance at the cemetery which was dormant after it reached full capacity for primary burials. “Unfortunately, it is used as a thoroughfare and residents are illegally disposing their waste on the north side.

    “Residents and visitors to the site should respect the sanctity of the cemetery.”

    An official footpath not used at the cemetery. Photo: Leseho Manala

    She added that the next AreSebetseng clean-up (initiated by Mayor Herman Mashaba) on 22 June will be conducted at the site and she urged residents to join the ‘campaign of attending to the graves of their loved ones’. This according to Moodley would be in compliance with by-laws which give residents the responsibility to repair and re-instate headstones and maintain the their relatives’ gravesites.

    Mahlomola Malinga next to graves waterlogged in affluence and covered by dumped waste. Photo: Leseho Manala

    She further appealed to residents to consider burying other family members in the same grave due to shortage of land for burials. She urged residents and visitors to report transgressions to the Metro police on 011 375 5555.

    Mahlomola Malinga points at an area with shacks over graves. Photo: Leseho Manala

    DA proportional representative councillor Shadrack Mkhonto commended the clean-up suggestion and added that the graveyard should be gated, maintained regularly and have visible management as it the past. “Criminal acts at the site are shameless and disrespectful and indiscriminate dumping should end through environmental education and self-pride in residents,” Mkhonto said. source:

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