Cape Town authorities say they are concerned about an increase in vandalism and crime at a number of municipal cemeteries in recent months.

Illegal occupation, theft, desecration of tombstones and damage to infrastructure are among the biggest problems.

Family members visiting the graves of loved ones are also at risk of being robbed.

Minky Fatshe bought a double plot at Gugulethu cemetery to secure a final resting place for her parents. She put up galvanised bars to protect the grave.

Last month, when she visited the grave, half of it was gone. Today, she discovered the rest had also been stolen.

“I feel very bad about what is happening in our graves. It’s not only mine. There were lots of bars around here. When we passed with our cars, we could see how beautiful our grave is. Today, it looks like … I don’t know what. The cows, the sheep running around here; there’s no proper security. The squatter camps are hanging blankets, washing. That’s not nice. These are our people that are resting here,” says Fatshe.

There are gaping holes in large parts of the cemetery’s perimeter fencing. Authorities say they’ve replaced the fencing many times and have security on site. However, the vandalism continues.

Fatshe adds, “The memory of our loved ones we respect them. We put them here to lie and rest in peace. Now, they become abused. It’s not nice. When we got problems, as Xhosa people, we come here to speak to our ancestors. Now when you come here, it’s vandalised. What are you going to do now?”

The Gugulethu Development Forum says it’s the municipality’s responsibility to ensure that cemeteries are maintained.

“That cemetery does not have proper security, hence people are vandalising there. They are vandalising the tombstones. Some of them are stealing the tombstones. We even have young people playing soccer there.  We understand the reason why they are playing soccer there, it is because there are no recreational places for them to play soccer,” says Gugulethu Development Forum’s Vincent Domingo.

Cape Town authorities concerned about recent vandalism, crime at municipal cemeteries:

The City of Cape Town says it is investigating the use of alternative hybrid fencing in a bid to protect its vulnerable facilities from criminality and vandalism.

It has called on the community to work in partnership with the City to ensure the preservation of cemeteries.

“We are recording more human faeces in our facilities, ablution blocks, the bricks are being stolen, security guards are having stones thrown at them, undertakers are not safe in our facilities. Some of them are being robbed at gunpoint and their equipment is being stolen,” says Mayco Member Community Servies & Health, Zahid Badroodien.

Badroodien says, in the case of Gugulethu, a tract of land has been identified for conversion into recreational areas, in addition to the existing sports facility to address the community’s concerns.