Street people blamed for cemetery vandalism

Homeless people who live on this piece of City-owned land are being blamed for the vandalism at Johnston Road Cemetery in Rylands.

There is growing vandalism and vagrancy in the Johnston Road Cemetery and surrounds.

Rylands resident Salima Modack said on social media that the City was now blocking her emails because she had complained so many times about the issue.

She says homeless people who sleep on municipal land next to the cemetery wall are to blame for vandalising the graves.

“The graves are being vandalised to such an extent that the wooden planks which are used to support graves, are being stolen and used for firewood. They also defecate and urinate in the cemetery. The City said there is nothing they can do, but it is their land that the people are occupying.”

The “unsanitary area” was near a fresh fish market, she complained.

A fishmonger, who would only give his name as Mr Brown, said there had been one person living on the City land in Old Klipfontein Road a few years ago.

Fish vendors say they also have a problem with vandalism.

“We had no problems when it was only him here,” he said. “The problem started when others also came to build shacks here. We keep our area clean, but vandalism is our main concern. We blame the council for the overload of people here. They could have stopped the people from building illegal structures.”

Abdullah Salie, from the Johnston Road Cemetery board, said they were worried about the planks being stolen and people using the cemetery as a toilet.

“This leaves a foul smell and it is unpleasant when families come to visit their loved-ones’ graves,” he said. “The City has been here a few times. They remove the people, but they just come back. We can’t do anything about it. The property on the other side of the cemetery wall belongs to the City. We do have security inside, but they are not allowed to go outside.”

The homeless people have denied any wrongdoing, claiming vandals come from other areas and hide among them.

Dr Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services and health, said: “The group of rough sleepers adjacent to the privately owned Johnson Road Cemetery is known to our street people unit. The unit’s mandate is to provide social assistance to street people which includes access to a shelter or safe space where access to food, water and sanitation is available.

“We are also able to offer access to rehabilitation services, reintegration and reunification, where this is accepted by the street people.

“Although the onus remains on the management board of the privately-owned cemetery to maintain and secure their properties, the City is doing what it can to assist in terms of social development interventions and law enforcement patrols. To date, the City has offered services, as well as alternative placement and care, to the rough sleepers, but these have been rejected.”

Furthermore, litigation involving the SA Human Rights Commission had limited the City’s ability to enforce its by-laws governing public spaces, “resulting in rough sleepers erecting permanent structures and encouraging them to remain on the streets”.