'It's disgusting': Family reacts to vandalism at Braamfontein cemetery
A Johannesburg family is grappling with a decision on whether to take the ashes of their loved ones from the Braamfontein cemetery after a wall they were buried in 50 years ago was vandalised.
Eileen Myburgh’s three family members were laid to rest at the cemetery and the news of vandalism of more than 4,000 plaques has left her and her father in distress.
The plaque of her father’s first wife, Pamela Myburgh, and his brother-in-law Norman were vandalised. Her mother’s ashes were scattered at the tree of remembrance which was over 100 years old but was torched over the years.
“I had to prepare my dad for what had happened, and we had to make a decision on either we leave them there and cement it back or take them. He is going to leave it there, but I’m not over-convinced this will be the end. Because of the way things are out of control, the chances are very slim that it won’t happen again.
“If they were looking for possessions, you can say it’s the poorest of the poorest people who live from day to day are looking for something. But if they wanted to smoke it, I think it’s disrespectful,” said Eileen, referring to rumours of nyaope addicts being in the area. This has not been verified.
She said she was devastated as most people she knew were considering taking the ashes of their loved ones from the cemetery.
“What do you do with ashes once you take them? My mother is there and her ashes were scattered on the tree of remembrance and now it has fallen over. Somebody lit a fire under it.
“It’s like somebody robbing your house, you feel violated. It’s disgusting, you are being robbed and have your things thrown in the street. My soul is destroyed,” Eileen said, adding that this had traumatised her father.
Sarah Welham, founder of the Friends of Cemeteries organisation, said the cemetery that was established in the 1930s has never seen such destruction.
“I found out it was happening on the 13th, I had brought somebody from America who wanted to take her father’s ashes back with her, and the wall that his ashes were in, all the tiles and plaques had been taken off,” she said.
“People are traumatised, they phone me and ask that I help them find the ashes of their loved ones. I’m inundated with requests.
“We lay it squarely at the feet of City Parks because they were told there’s a security issue and did nothing to correct it. If they had stepped in at that point, none of this would have happened. We get the impression that it’s not important to City Parks. We have talked to them about fixing the broken fencing and there are several trees in the cemetery that are threatening graves.”
Welham estimated the number of damaged plaques at more than 4,000 of the 6,000 that are there.
“Our next job is to record the names, go to the registrar and get a niche number and put them back on the correct niche.”
Commenting on speculation about those responsible, she said: “The ash is there in some of them. Most of them the ash is still in there. We lean more on the theory that they were looking for valuables.”
City Parks has been approached for comment, and this article will be updated once furnished.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.