Mixed messages over graves move

Suggestions for the construction of a pedestrian walkway expected to run through Hout Bay cemetery to the triangle TRA were not well received by Hout Bay residents.

There appears to be mixed messages from the City of Cape Town regarding the potential relocation of graves on Hout Bay cemetery to create a pedestrian walkway for people being relocated to the so-called “triangle” temporary relocation area (TRA) above the graveyard.

A meeting was held on Thursday November 23 to update Hout Bay residents on the latest developments in respect of superblocking and TRAs.

It was at this meeting that residents heard the City would be creating a walkway through the cemetery to serve the triangle TRA and graves could be relocated.

In a audio recording of the meeting, which the Sentinel has in its possession, City engineer Eugene Espin said there would be a pedestrian access down the back end of the site through the cemetery, and the route was being designed.

It was “more than likely” several graves would need to be relocated during that process, he said, although an assessment had also been done on several alternative routes that could be used.

However, when the Sentinel put questions to the City this week on the proposal, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, Xanthea Limberg, said the relocation of graves in order to create a pedestrian walkway was “not considered a viable solution”.

“The City is looking at all available options to identify opportunities for additional entries at the triangle site,” she said.

When told of the idea earlier this week, some residents described it as “disrespectful” to the dead and their descendants.

Many relatives of Hangberg residents are buried at the cemetery, and community leaders said they would be dismayed if the City took this decision without consulting them.

Last week the City’s urban development boss, Brett Herron, confirmed the mayoral committee had given the nod to using part of the site (Erf 1459) above the cemetery on Hout Bay Road to house Imizamo Yethu residents temporarily.

The declaration will be published in the Provincial Gazette in due course (“Future of ‘triangle’ site discussed,” Sentinel, November 24).

The triangle site is one of three TRAs to house Imizamo Yethu residents while the settlement is revamped for basic services in a process known as “superblocking”. The others are the Disa and Depot sites, which are located within Imizamo Yethu itself.

Jan Lewis, chairperson of the Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum, said the idea was contemptuous of the people of Hangberg.

“Many of our ancestors are buried in that graveyard. Our people used to live in the Disa area before they were relocated,” he said.

“The majority of people living in IY now actually come from other places but have put up shacks because they work in Hout Bay. But for the so-called coloured people, this is our land. We have no other country where we came from.

“This move would be very disrespectful. No one from the City has even come to discuss this with us. I cannot agree with this.”

Resident Garth Dil, who attended last Thursday’s meeting, was “horrified” when told of the move.

“This is completely unethical, especially for this particular purpose,” Mr Dil said, referring to the municipal by-law for emergency housing which says the City can declare the site a TRA for a 90-day period with the possibility of a further 90-day extension.

“If the TRA can only be there for a maximum of 180 days, then it makes no sense to undertake such a measure. You can also imagine the effect a walkway will have on burials in the cemetery and church services. There will be a huge disruption as people walk through and graves will be desecrated at night.”

Another resident, Linda Schmiedeke, said the move would be “disrespectful” to the families of the dead.

“The City by their actions are essentially pitting communities against one another.”

The triangle site’s status as a TRA, and not a permanent housing site, has also been questioned by some community leaders.

Mkhululi Ndude, leader of the Imizamo Yethu Movement, said it was his understanding that people living on Road 1 in Dontse Yakhe would be settled permanently on the triangle, which has now been levelled by bulldozers.

“Now they are telling us this will be a temporary area. But if people are permanently moved from Road 1, where are they expected to move to? To me, it looks like the City of Cape Town are scared of these white-monopoly people from Hughenden,” Mr Ndude said.