Theft, vandalism continue to plague cemetery

A toppled light pole at the Johnston Road Cemetery.

The Vygieskraal Muslim Cemetery, in Johnston Road, Rylands, continues to be targeted by thieves and vandals.

About two weeks ago, during load shedding, thieves stole lighting cables, and on Monday July 18 they cut down a light pole, said Abdullah Salie, chairman of the cemetery.

The problems with theft and vandalism at the cemetery have been reported on previously (“Theft at Muslim cemetery,” Athlone News, November 19, 2019, and “Street people blamed for cemetery vandalism,” Athlone News, February 3, 2021).

It was proving costly to replace equipment that was mostly sponsored, said Mr Salie, accusing squatters on an adjacent municipal field of making holes in the cemetery’s pre-cast concrete wall to brace their shelters.

“We have confronted them about it, but they are so rude,” he said. “The City removes them in the morning, but they just come back again. The cemetery has spent about R20 000 trying to better the facility, but vandalism keeps destroying our efforts. It’s one step forward and two steps back. We’ve already replaced 95 slabs over a three-year period.”

Athlone police spokeswoman Sergeant Zita Norman said no cases of vandalism and theft at the cemetery had been reported to them.

“Now we have been alerted to it, we will adjust patrols accordingly. There have been no reported cases, but thieves will take any opportunity they can get.”

Ward councillor Aslam Cassiem said the City offered to give the land to the cemetery “but they are not interested in it if burials cannot occur on it”.

Fencing the land would also not solve the problem, he said.

“A fence will not protect a piece of land that does not contain warm bodies.”

He said a different City department was now responsible for the land and he was in discussions with it to find a solution.

The squatters had also refused help from City “integration officers”, he said.