No rest for the dead as graves dug in Lenasia- skulls found

TOM Jokinen once said, ‘You should respect death and respect the dead, not out of fear, but because it’s the proper human thing to do’.

A Finetown family believes the dignity of their loved ones has been violated after their remains were dug up from a ‘private cemetry’ in Lenasia’s Extension 11B.

The Motholo family made the discovery on Sunday, April 29, when they went to perform their traditional rituals and clean the resting places of their family members.

The family arrived at the site to find a trench had been dug where their loved ones had been buried. While investigating they found skeletal remains scattered about the ground.

“Whoever was doing the digging could clearly see there were grave stones. We had to find the place where my grandfather, cousin and uncle were buried and reassemble the graves. We are not even sure if their remains are still here,” Sylvia Ndalambi said.

The people buried at the site about 60 years ago had worked and lived at Corobrick and Precast at the time of the burials.

“My father died while my mother was pregnant with me. That is how I know he was buried over 60 years ago. I have been coming here for a very long time, I just did not expect this,”  Sylvia’s mother, Mrs Motholo, wept.

In September 2015, the Rising Sun ran an article about the gravesite.

At the time, an unknown company had begun demolishing the site and was preparing to develop the area.

City Parks’ Head of Cemetries, Reggy Moloi, former Ward 9 Councillor, Abdia Bennie, and former Chairperson of the Homeless People Organisation, Dan Nkgadima, were at the scene.

Officials from City Parks said that they were going to fence off the portion where the graves are situated.

To date, this has not been done. According to Nkgadima, no feedback was ever received from City Parks.

“I have been living here for a very long time. This site was once very visible and neat. When City Parks said they were going to fence it, I believed it would keep people away from the graves. That never happened and here we are today,” Nkgadima said.

Following the discovery, the family has laid criminal charges against those responsible for digging up the graves.

Forensics experts were called to the scene. However, the exposed remain still remained in the area.

According to Lenasia SAPS spokesperson, Captain Hector Netshivhodza, the trench was dug by a subcontractor in a bid to store water which was to be pumped from a nearby dam.

“The people who were digging did not notice the graves as there had been illegal dumping at the site. We are, however, investigating a case of violation of graves,” Netshivhodza said.

City Parks Marketing Manager, Jenny Moodley, said that the site had not been identified as a cemetery.

“Police are handling the matter and we are waiting to establish how long the graves have been there,” Ms Moodley said.

She said that if it were discovered that the graves were older than 50 years, it would have to be classified as a heritage cemetery. For this to happen, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform would have to come on board.

Furthermore, Sasol Petroleum has a gas pipe that runs 1.5 metres under the site.

  AUTHOR
Rebecca Mogalagadi
Journalist

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