Last week the city callously destroyed more than 600 graves in the y by grotesquely bulldozing the grave sites using heavy construction equipment to flatten the ground over the graves for reason only that they wished to make it easier for their staff to maintain the cemetery grounds.
In the process the city’s workers obliterated graves, damaged any number of tombstones and actually destroyed or removed some tombstones and shrines built and maintained by grieving city residents. In addition numerous grave markers of graves that had not yet had a tombstone erected was simply scraped away, leaving numerous graves totally unmarked.
To this end I have today laid criminal charges of the desecration of the approximately 600 graves that were destroyed against the officials and political leaders concerned and we commit ourselves to continue to support the community in search of the restoration of their dignity and the cemetery.
It is the principle point of departure of any DA led local government that the city’s officials are employed on behalf of the community and its political leadership is elected to provide the best services possible to all residents and thereby to create a city environment in which residents can pursue their dreams and realise their aspirations.
Part of this commitment to the happiness of our people is the recognition of the fact that people’s sentiments of love and attachment to their family and loved ones transcends death and that it is a basic human need to have city spaces where people can safely and with dignity honour their dead and where they can do so by expressing their feelings in the manners in which they choose to maintain the graves, contemplate life and love and where they can experience healing of the pain of separation in peace.
Cemeteries are places of respect and it is the duty of the city protect and preserve the dignity of those who are vulnerable for reason of the feelings they experience when they visit the graves of their loved ones.
Upon protest by me, the city’s officials justified the desecration of the graves on the basis of a 2015 by-law that allows only tombstones to be erected. This municipal by-law however does not change the common law (which only the National Assembly can do) that criminalises the desecration of existing graves and it does not have any retrospective effect that justified the acts of the city.
The Democratic Alliance regards the wanton destruction of graves as an insult to the people of the city and it is anathema to the values we espouse and expect any city government to respect.
The unwillingness of the current city leadership to accept responsibility and to even just offer an apology is to be regretted.
We are committed to ensure that the dignity of grieving residents affected by this desecration will be restored and that the cemetery space shall in future be respected.
DA Ward 91 Councillor and Shadow MMC of Finance
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