Families can’t even find relatives’ resting places in neglected, overgrown cemetery
Years of neglect at the Colchester cemetery have left families with relatives buried there in dire straits, with one woman saying she could not even find where her mother was buried anymore.
Sunken graves, long grass, rubbish, missing headstones and roaming cattle were just some of the issues seen by a reporter during a visit last week.
Sarah Baartman, 42, who has lived in Colchester for the past 30 years, said it was upsetting to see the state of the cemetery where her family members were buried.
“I can’t even find where my mother’s grave is,” she said.
Baartman’s grandparents, mother and uncles are all buried at the cemetery.
“Where is the dignity in death, if my family members are buried here – it’s heartbreaking to see the state of this place.”
Baartman said contractors had cleaned the area but they had merely trimmed the bushes.
“The graves are sinking in, it’s full of rubbish and also it’s too small,” she said. During an Integrated Development Plan meeting in Colchester last year, similar issues were highlighted about the cemetery in the hamlet 40km outside Port Elizabeth.
Irate resident Godfrey Jacobs said at the time the cemetery was in an appalling state.
“Honestly, when you have to go there it is not like you are burying someone. It is like you are throwing them in a bush,” he said.
Responding to Jacobs, mayor Athol Trollip said at the time the municipality had been sending contractors to the graveyard for sporadic clean-ups but they were “cleaning up somebody else’s mess”.
Three weeks after contacting the municipality for comment, municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said maintenance and cleaning of the Colchester cemetery was delayed due to the contractors not performing.
He said one contractor appointed to do bush clearing had abandoned the project at a later stage.
A second contractor was appointed to complete the work but dead branches had not been removed.
“This will now be done by an appointed contractor who will maintain the cemetery on a monthly basis,” he said.
He said the cemetery would be cleaned and the grass cut within the next 14 days.