Klip Cemetery, in Grassy Park has become a target for theft and vandalism.
In a recent incident, on Sunday March 14, granite stones had been stolen from the grave of Mary Voskuil.
An upset Patricia Voskuil said her mother passed away on Monday January 25 and was buried on Friday January 29. “The next day, Saturday January 30, all the flowers and bouquets were stolen off the grave.”
On Sunday March 14, the family went to visit the grave again and were horrified to find that all the granite slabs which had been placed over the gravesite, had been stolen.
Her mother’s body was buried on the same plot as her father and niece. “It was removed off the original grave of my dad and niece and we were waiting for the grave to settle before relaying the granite that was so carefully removed,” said Ms Voskuil.
She said she wanted to make people aware of the lack of security at the Klip Cemetery.
“On the day of the funeral we saw two working men, opening and closing the graves and they were not wearing the City Council uniform. I would like to make everyone aware of the vandalism and theft at the cemetery.”
The baffled Ms Voskuil said when they reported the theft of the slabs on March 20, even police were astounded that someone had been able to remove the heavy granite slabs without being seen.
“The granite could only be removed by a truck/bakkie,” said Ms Voskuil, who quested why security had not seen anyone removing the stones.
Ms Voskuil sent Southern Mail her SAPS case number and we enquired about the incident, but by the time this story was published, police had not yet responded.
And according to Zahid Badroodien, the City’s mayoral committee member for community services and health, vandalism at City cemeteries is an ongoing challenge.
“Cemeteries are vast portions of land and it is impossible to secure each grave, especially in recent months when the demand for burials was at its peak and drew heavy foot traffic daily through the cemeteries,” he said.
“City cemeteries are also classified public open spaces and are therefore required to remain accessible to all.”
In recent years, Southern Mail has reported on the ongoing thefts at Klip Cemetery (“Cemetery plundered by thieves”, Southern Mail, September 30, 2020 and “Crime concerns at cemetery”, Southern Mail, November 6, 2019) and when asked what the City had done to safeguard visitors, Dr Badroodien said: “At Klip Cemetery, two security guards are on duty at night and there is perimeter fencing installed around the cemetery. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, the City cannot afford to provide additional security guards.”
During the hard lockdown, only those attending funerals were allowed in the cemetery and Southern Mail asked the City if the cemetery officials had any control over who came onto the property, since lockdown restrictions had been relaxed.
“Access control was a measure put in place to comply with national regulations during more restrictive lockdown levels,” said Dr Badroodien.
“Klip Cemetery was consistently one of the three highest City burial facilities utilised by the public, frequently drawing large numbers of mourners for funerals at the peak of Covid-19 fatalities.
“During the day, general staff is on site to ensure the grounds and pathways are kept clean. At night, two security guards are on duty.”
Hightlighting safety concerns, Ms Voskuil said when she visited Klip Cemetery again on Thursday March 20, she saw a man and a woman smoking on the grounds. “It is not safe to go there alone. The big gate in Prince George drive is closed and only the main gate in Klip Road is open. No security has been seen in the office and there is no one manning the gate,” she said.
Responding to this, Dr Badroodien said: “The Recreation and Parks Department is also in discussions with all role players including the local police station and City Law Enforcement to work together to increase visibility in the day.
“The community can also play a valuable role and we encourage them to report cases of vandalism and theft to City Law Enforcement and the SAPS.”