Community Empowerment

Community Members Look After Brakpan Cemetery

The love of his community and the great respect for the graveyard are what drives Peter van der Merwe to be at the forefront of maintaining the Brakpan Cemetery.

Van der Merwe (71), a senior citizen from Brakpan, is passionate about keeping the cemetery and the surrounding community parks clean. It is this love that has seen him mobilising the community to constantly ensure that the park and cemetery are kept clean.

Van der Merwe works closely with Frans Van Niekerk (55), a qualified boilermaker, who shares the same passion as Van der Merwe of caring for the graveyard. Van Niekerk handles the cutting of overgrown weeds and fixing the falling tombstones in the children’s sections of the cemetery.

These good deeds by members of the Brakpan community is done with limited resources accompanied by love and respect for the place of the dead. As such, Van der Merwe is requesting more support from other community members to come on board.

“I’m a pensioner, I have a lot of time on my hands and my body is still able to move around at my age. Hence, I saw it fit for me to do one good deed and that is to volunteer my time to look after the Brakpan cemetery. In that way I’m honouring my loved ones who are also buried here,” said Van der Merwe.

“I don’t have the best garden tools, but with the little that I have I have for the past 14 years have made sure that the park in our area and the cemetery are kept clean. In all these years I have seen it all my friend – the good, the bad and the ugly side of the cemetery,” he said.

On the ugly side of things, Van der Merwe said vandalism of graves and tombstone was a blow to his heart.

“I once caught two guys trying to steal tombstones at night. I made a noise that alerted the other members of the community and the guys left the tombstone and ran. This just shreds my heart to pieces,” he says.

He thanked the City for doing its part of ensuring that the parks and cemeteries in Ekurhuleni are well maintained.

Emmanuel Maphoro, Head for Parks and Cemeteries in the City, said plans for improving security at local cemeteries were at an advanced stage. Meanwhile, Maphoro added that grass cutting and tree pruning inside the cemetery are currently ongoing.