The devastating effect of the vandalism at the Braamfontein cemetery has left many distraught and in shock.
Braamfontein cemetery holds a rich history and cultural heritage that spans as far back as the 1800’s. It is one of the first and oldest cemeteries in Johannesburg, housing the remains of Jewish, Chinese, Christian sections and others.
On inspection of the desecration of ash walls at the cemetery, the Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo team made the following findings: -
- Based on observations and information gathered on site, it seemed that there was a distinct pattern in which the plaques and niches were removed. The perpetrators used a systematic and coordinated means of removing the niches where some were placed almost uniformly on the ground and along the ash walls while others strangely strewn further away.
- Some of the plaques seemed to have been removed with a deliberate intention of destroying the plaques.
- The root cause for the desecration of ash walls and niches is attributed to a combination of conditions which include the illegal access to the cemetery over the boundary wall. Displaced persons jump over the low-lying fence and gain access to historical ash walls and niches and through various open sections of where the boundary fence was vandalised.
- This is exacerbated by the conditions that have developed over time associated with the humidity and disintegration of existing infrastructure.
- It is evident from the site visit that some plaques slid off over time due to inclement weather and a lack of maintenance by the families, bearing in mind that these plaques are mostly over 55 years old.
- The misconception of perpetrators about the existence of valuables such as gold, jewellery and other valuable buried within the enclosed niches.
- The various overgrown trees, some of which have been pruned inside the cemetery, create environmental conditions associated with mould and humidity. Inclement weather cause trees to topple over due to strong winds, heavy rains as well as the natural deterioration of material over time, which creates the disintegrating of binding cement materials used in the construction of niches.
The City of Joburg’s by-laws state that: -
- No person may enter or leave any cemetery or crematorium, except by the gateway provided.
- May enter any office or enclosed place in a cemetery or crematorium, where entry is prohibited, without the consent of the officer-in-charge, which may be given only when such person is attending business connected with such cemetery or crematorium.
- No person may, within any cemetery or crematorium interfere with any fountain, statue, monument, equipment, fence, grave or Council property.
- Is prohibited from damaging, defacing or destroying any flower, plant or seed, damage, deface or remove any memorial work, grave, building, fence or fixtures.
- Throw litter outside containers provided by the Council for that purpose.
- Sit, stand, walk, climb, draw, or write on any grave or memorial work.
Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) team have identified temporary interventions as well as long term solutions of the desecration of these sacred and historic facilities.
The Facilities Department within JCPZ has implemented the following short-term interventions: -
- Six additional security personnel have been deployed at the cemetery on 24-hour shift, which will be strategically stationed at the entrance and the ash memorial site during the day and at night.
- Since the deployment of these security personnel, according to the Facilities Management team, there have been no recorded incidents of vandalism.
- The recent trimming of low hanging trees has made a concerted difference in terms of visibility.
- Long term plans for the installation of lighting around the vandalism area is in the pipeline. A service provider has been instructed to provide a detailed implementation plan for installation within the next few months in the ash section of the cemetery.
- Installation of lighting is budget dependent as the area is large, plans are underway to look at the specifications and the best material to be used for work to be complete with a few months.
- Installation of a fence around the memorial section is being considered.
- Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo is in discussion and in partnership with the Friends of Johannesburg Cemeteries and Heritage Foundation for a way forward to reinstate the ash section, restore name stones and means to curb vandalism in the cemetery.
JCPZ is urging families of their loved ones who have been laid to rest at the Braamfontein Cemetery, to visit the cemetery to assist in identifying and reinstating plaques which were destroyed. A criminal case was opened at the Hillbrow Police Station, the case number being 326/04/2023.
The issue of vandalism across the city requires efforts from all sectors, most importantly Johannesburg Metro Police Department, South African Police Services, the Department of Social Development, JCPZ Park Rangers, security companies and community groups.
Issued on behalf of
Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo
Media enquiries can be directed to: Noeleen Mattera: Media Relations, Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo T: 011 712-6722 / E: firstname.lastname@example.org or Reggie Moloi: Senior Manager, Cemeteries and Crematoria; 082 803 0655; E: email@example.com; Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo. www.jhbcityparksandzoo.com. Follow us on Twitter @JoburgParksZoo, Instagram and on Facebook