A Southfield woman had a nasty surprise when she visited her husband’s grave at Plumstead Cemetery – it had been desecrated, along with several others.
Pamela Swart was taking flowers to her husband, Winston’s grave on the afternoon of Sunday March 31 when
she noticed his granite tombstone – featuring a laser-etched photo of him – had been toppled and was lying smashed on the ground.
“You know, I’ve seen people steal flowers from graveyards and sell them, but this is just something else,” she said. “I spent
R2 500 to redo my husband’s tombstone in 2013 and have his picture included on the top and someone just came and erased everything.
“They broke the whole thing down. I was so devastated that someone would do this to someone’s loved one. I couldn’t even put my flowers down; I went straight home.”
Ms Swart returned to the cemetery the next day and noticed that at least three other tombstones near her husband’s grave had been smashed in a similar way, and a cross had been prised from one of them.
Ms Swart said the cemetery only had one security guard who reported for duty at the main gate in the evenings.
Municipal cemeteries are managed by the City’s recreation and parks department, but, according to Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services and health, they are difficult to secure because of their size and multiple entry points.
“It is especially challenging to mitigate against crime and vandalism, which often takes place after hours,” he said.
Crime and vandalism at cemeteries was a countrywide problem, he said.
Perimeter fencing was often stolen faster than it could be replaced, he said.
“New fencing is becoming a commodity for criminals to steal, and by replacing the fencing, the department is enabling more theft, which defeats the purpose of replacing it.”
Patrolling was often ineffective and dangerous for one security guard to manage, and hiring private security was too costly, he said. “The City cannot afford to provide security guards to provide 100% security coverage to cemeteries for each grave.”
Diep River police spokesman Constable Zak Marais said other than Ms Swart’s case, they had had no further reports of crime at Plumstead Cemetery.