Tzaneen town has three cemeteries situated within its borders, the oldest of which is situated behind Tzaneen Crossing shopping centre between the taxi rank and the Caltex fuelling station in Danie Joubert Street.

The cemeteries in Tzaneen and their upkeep falls on the priorities list of the Greater Tzaneen Municipality’s (GTM) Parks Department.

The Parks Department in turn falls under the management of the director of Community Services, Alec Nkuna (who served as the acting municipal manager following the resignation of Thapelo Matlala in September 2021) who reports to the current municipal manager, Donald Mhangwana who took office a few months ago.

Failing in their mandate to maintain order in cemeteries as per their own bylaws, the oldest of the three cemeteries, known as Tzaneen Cemetery, has fallen into complete disrepair with the remaining two only being maintained because of public participation.

This week, DA Ward Councillor for Ward 15, Chrizelle Dreyer, accompanied the centre management of Tzaneen Crossing centre to the Tzaneen Cemetery for an oversight visit following complaints received from local business owners regarding the state of the site.

“What I saw there quite simply cannot be adequately described in words. It was heart breaking to see human excrement on graves, hundreds of broken beer bottles and used condoms all over the site. No visible cleaning has been done there and vegetation control also seems to be a thing of the past,” said Dreyer.

During the initial hard lockdown at the start of the 2019 Covid pandemic, Bulletin paid a visit to the cemetery during a live show where we documented the state of the cemetery and requested the assistance of our viewers in cleaning up the grounds.

At the time it was not possible to gain access to the graveyard as the keys to the gates were held by the management of the car dealer situated just next to it.

Those gates have in the meantime been stolen. The graveyard now stands open to the public who have used it as a thoroughfare to and from the taxi rank and Danie Joubert Street.

A clear footpath has formed from one end of the cemetery to the other. Vagrants have made their home in one corner, and it is evident that the local prostitutes have found solace behind the cover what is left of the concrete-slab boundary fence.

The current situation at Tzaneen Cemetery is in breach of the Greater Tzaneen Municipality Cemetery Bylaws chapter 7 (24) which states that no person may enter or leave any cemetery except by means of the gates provided; and (25.2) which states that no person my remain in the cemetery after 19:00; and (27) which says that no person may destroy or damage any gravestone, monument or path in a cemetery; and (29) which forbids unseemly acts.

The bylaws make mention of the “Officer in Charge” which in this instance is the person responsible for the enforcing of the bylaws and this instance it would appear to be the director Nkuna.

The Ward Councillor has sent a report to the municipal manager, the director of community services and the office of the mayor concerning this matter and requested immediate action be taken to rectify the matter and restore the cemetery to a place where loved ones can pay their respects to their deceased.

Bulletin has also requested feedback on the matter from the municipality and at the time of going to print had received none.