Brodie Road cemetery revived

At the official opening ceremony of the Muslim cemetery in Brodie Road, are, from left, Wynberg resident and historian, Mogamat Kamedien; Susan Brice, Head of Cemetery Management for the City of Cape Town; and Armien Schroeder, registered death registrar.

The reopening of Wynberg’s Brodie Road Muslim Cemetery, which had been dormant for 127 years, has been welcomed.

The community marked the reopening at a ceremony held at the Yusufeyyah Masjid, in Wynberg, on Friday April 7 and the first janaazah (funeral) took place the next day, Saturday April 8.

The Brodie Road Cemetery was dormant for 127 years.

Yusufeyyah Masjid committee member Hadji Salie Dawjee had started engaging with the City of Cape Town in the last 20 years to reopen the cemetery, however, progress came to a halt when he died in 2015.

Yunus Karriem, secretary of the Yusuffeyah Masjid, task team leader for the reopening and Wynberg East Civic Association (WECA) chairperson, said: “The request was picked up again in January 2022, then it gained momentum and got the go-ahead on September 4 2022.”

At the ceremony, the Yusufeyyah Masjid committee and the Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa (MJC-SA) announced the reopening as well as the commencing of burials the following day.

Attendees at Yusuffeyah Masjid during the reopening ceremony of the Brodie Road Cemetery, in Wynberg.

Historic documents indicate that the land was provided to the Muslim community by the then-colonial government in 1848 with the last burial taking place in 1896.

Imam Badrodien, being the “Malay Priest”, as he was termed, for the Wynberg area during this period was entrusted with the oversight of the cemetery on behalf of the Wynberg Muslim community. Over time and with Yusufeyyah Masjid’s establishment in 1867, the masjid took over the custodianship of the Brodie Road Cemetery.

Due to the shortage of burial space in Cape Town, the Burial Administration of the MJC (SA), had been working closely with the cemetery management.

Sheikh Riad Fataar, second deputy president of the MJC (SA) and chairperson of the Burial Administration Department, thanked all those who had been involved for many years in the project, including the Yusuffeyah Committee; Susan Brice, head of Cemetery Management for the City; as well as Faizal Sayed, chairman of the Moslem Cemetery Board and members of Mowbray Cemetery Board and Abdullah Salie, chairman of the Vygieskraal cemetery Board, “who offered their assistance and will continue to support the efforts of the Brodie Road Cemetery management.”

The Muslim cemetery is back in use.

Sheikh Ebrahiem Moos of the Yusufeyyah Masjid committee said: “In September 2022, the City of Cape Town gave us the green light to reopen the cemetery for re-use. The committee has been working tirelessly since then to prepare for burials. We are honoured and thankful for having been granted the opportunity to build on the legacy of our forefathers in seeing to the needs of our community. In completing the project of reopening the cemetery we must acknowledge many individuals and organisations, past and present, who contributed to its success.”

Mogamat “Kammie” Kamedien, local historian, Wynberg resident and committee member of provincial archives, said: “This initiative must be commended, that one of these historic defunct Malay cemeteries has been considered for reopening after 127 years of being a dormant burial ground.

“This historic Malay cemetery attests to the fact that the then Muslim community were accepted as permanent residents and part of the productive labour forces such as skilled artisans, respected craftsmen, hawkers, and tradespeople, etc of these local village economies.

“Thus the release of the Brodie Road Muslim cemetery once again gives recognition that the Muslim community is enjoying civic rights as citizens in a diverse rainbow nation which values its multi-faith composition and the multicultural nature of a modern bustling port city, Cape Town – one city, many cultures.”

Mr Kamedien said these suburbs, when they were under autonomous village management boards, had their own municipal cemeteries, and these defunct Malay cemeteries are open air archives as evidence that the local Muslim communities were a key component of the demographic profile of these urban communities.

“Since South Africa faces land scarcity in respect of the provision of new public cemeteries, the fact that the local authority in a democratic South Africa is willing to join hands with the community leadership to address this land hunger by the reusing these abandoned burial spaces is a monument to diversity management in a multi-faith society.

“This will organically reconnect living communities with these historic burial grounds which have been laying dormant for more than a century across the city metro, after Maitland cemetery – size of 10 rugby fields – replaced all these suburban burial spaces.”